Inquiry into Irish tax deal with Apple is ‘high priority’

Investigation will be completed next year, says European competition commissioner

The European Commission's investigation into the Irish Government's tax arrangements with Apple should be completed by the second quarter of next year, the EU's Competition commissioner said yesterday.

Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Margrethe Vestager saidthat the four ongoing cases against Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were “high priority” and would be completed before any investigation is opened into the tax rulings disclosed by the Luxembourg leaks scandal.

She also outlined her support for the Commission’s Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), a proposal for a common corporate tax base that is opposed by Ireland and a number of other EU member states.

The surprise disclosure that a decision on the Apple investigation could be made within the next seven months suggests a much swifter timetable for the conclusion of the case than had been originally envisaged.


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said earlier this month that he believed the commission's case against Apple would be dropped. The Government has consistently argued that two tax rulings offered to the computer giant are legal and has vowed to challenge a negative decision by the commission in the European Court of Justice.

Ms Vestager, who began her five-year term in the European Commission's competition arm on November 1st, is facing pressure to respond to the revelations earlier this month about 343 tax rulings offered by Luxembourg to companies.

Yesterday, the Danish commissioner said she “admired” the journalistic work that led to the revelations about Luxembourg’s tax regime, stressing that the four open cases would be completed before any decision arising from the “Lux leaks” revelations would be made.

Market information

“We consider the Luxleaks documents as market information. We will examine it and evaluate whether or not this will lead us to open new cases. What we are doing right now is prioritising the work to finalise the open cases.”

She said that closing the four open cases “relatively swiftly” would enable the commission to have “a much larger degree of technical expertise when it comes to a number of these arrangements”.

On the CCCTB, Ms Vestager noted that she had worked on the issue during the Danish EU presidency in 2012.

“It was very difficult back then but I hope that some of the momentum created by the work of the journalists and the tax agenda in general will enable us to pass that. It will be of great benefit both for the citizens but also for the companies that do not do tax planning.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent