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European Commission refers Ireland to court over failure to collect €13bn in tax from Apple

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"The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

Hope beats eternal in the cynical hearts at Vulture Central.

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Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

And hope beats eternal in the heart of the Irish government, that if they delay, mumble and fudge for long enough, the whole sorry mess will resolve itself without pain. Of course, if it were Germany or France in the dock, then the outcome would be a compromise that let the country off the hook so long as there were some sort of moral victory for the Commission.

But that's not the case here. The French and German government have always wanted to stop "tax shopping", despite writing the rules that permit it, and now they are delighted to see the Commission demanding a full kilo of flesh from the Irish government. And the fact that Apple may have to pay is immaterial, if the Commission win, the real damage will be inflicted on Ireland's tax arrangements, and cause a resultant worsening on their balance of trade with the EU. In this situation the people of Greece can explain to the people of Ireland what happens to small countries on the periphery, when the chips are down.

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Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

Forget France & Germany, the real "write the rules and therefore get away with it" villain is the truly odious, vengeful and self-interested hack at the centre of the EU, who will do anything in his power to protect Luxembourg's right to "out-do" Ireland in this regard.

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Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

Of course, if it were Germany or France in the dock, then the outcome would be a compromise that let the country off the hook so long as there were some sort of moral victory for the Commission

BS. Here's the proof:

European court slams France for failure to recover 'illegal' subsidies

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

A company can go tax shopping. What can't happen is that companies can negotiate or be bribed with lower taxes than are available to all other companies operating in the same region. If you do that then you are providing state aid for a company, and a company as big and as rich as Apple.

This is the issue with the Luxembourg and Ireland cases.

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Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

>Here's the proof...

Only problem, the only source of proof a UK resident totally against the EU will accept is the Daily Mail, The Sun or the Telegraph, but even then they probably would still put more faith in what Nigel, Boris etc said about the EU...

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@AC - "state aid" for Apple

If we assume the EU is correct that Ireland is giving Apple a special deal no one else can get, it was given to them long ago, before they were as big and rich as they are today. Not saying that makes it right, but it isn't as if Apple came along with a couple hundred billion in the bank wanting the deal. AFAIK it had something to do with Apple locating iMac manufacturing facilities in Cork which employ four or five thousand people. If the iPod and iPhone had never happened and Apple was still a struggling little company just scraping by, the EU wouldn't bother with them because fighting over a few million euro wouldn't be worth their trouble.

Unfortunately this sort of tax shopping happens all over. Anytime Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, etc. announce a new data center in the US, they're getting a sweetheart deal from whatever state it is located in. And maybe a further deal from the city/county as well.

So long as entities have control over the taxes they charge, there really isn't any way to stop it. The government above them can make laws about what is allowed and what isn't, but huge companies have the best lawyers money can buy, who can and will find any loophole that exists. You'd have to write your laws based on 'intent' rather than following the law, and try to recover back taxes for such arrangements that are declared illegal after the fact. That's basically the equivalent of ticketing me for texting while driving that occurred years before the law banning it was passed where I live.

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Re: @AC - "state aid" for Apple

"If we assume the EU is correct that Ireland is giving Apple a special deal no one else can get, it was given to them long ago, before they were as big and rich as they are today"

The last deal was made in 2007, there tax rate was reduced to 0.005%.

"...announce a new data center in the US, they're getting a sweetheart deal from whatever state it is located in"

This is the EU not the US. It is between countries not between states or counties within one country. See Boeing vs Bombardier for a local example.

"So long as entities have control over the taxes they charge, there really isn't any way to stop it."

Yes there is, they get made to pay back €13bn in tax.

"...but huge companies have the best lawyers money can buy, who can and will find any loophole that exists. "

I thought you said Apple were tiny when this was arranged. Their lawyers aren't great if they couldn't foresee this.

"...declared illegal after the fact."

It was always illegal, the law didn't change. It just took time for it to be properly investigated. You can't give state aid within the EU.

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FEXIT

The EU not looking so quaint now , eh Ireland?

Time to leave the whole stinking Caboodle?

Go on - tell 'em to feck off - You know it makes sense.

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Re: FEXIT

>Go on - tell 'em to feck off - You know it makes sense.

What and go back to the traditional exports of potatoes and 1/3 of all people born there?

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Re: "The Register has asked Apple for a comment. ®"

"despite writing the rules that permit it, ". Interesting, could you share a link about it with us.

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Re: @AC - "state aid" for Apple

2007 is the year the original iPhone was launched. So the deal was signed before Apple became the rich organization it is today and certainly negotiated long before unless the contention is that Ireland's tax authorities are so good they can whip out a complex tax deal overnight.

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Re: @AC - "state aid" for Apple

"So the deal was signed before Apple became the super rich organization it is today"

I don't call a successful business with profits measured in $billions in 2000~2007 'poor'. Remember Apple was a successful company, albeit one selling alot of iPods.

Also Ireland joined the EEC in 1973 and thus has been involved in the EU since the beginning. Hence there is no excuse that Ireland didn't know the rules about state aid...

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Re: @AC - "state aid" for Apple

"but it isn't as if Apple came along with a couple hundred billion in the bank wanting the deal."

It's pretty much exactly like that.

"AFAIK it had something to do with Apple locating iMac manufacturing facilities in Cork which employ four or five thousand people."

So illegal state aid in return for an effective bribe.

"Unfortunately this sort of tax shopping happens all over."

And that's illegal in the EU if a deal is not available to all.

"That's basically the equivalent of ticketing me for texting while driving that occurred years before the law banning it was passed where I live."

No it was already illegal when it happened.

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Re: FEXIT

"What and go back to the traditional exports of potatoes and 1/3 of all people born there?"

Ah yes - back to the days of the traditional six course Irish dinner. 5 pints and a baked potato...

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Re: Race to the bottom

Its no coincidence that the new EU rules aimed at curbing artificial tax avoidance come into effect in March 2019.

If you wonder why Teresa May triggered article 50 when it was abundantly clear the UK was not in a position to start the process you have to understand that the decision was taken for her by the vested interests in the Tory party along with the kippers.

After all, it wouldnt be easy to explain to the EU commission how 99% of a companies revenue can be charged to an entity in Gibralter as 'costs' and then magically emerge tax free in Panama thanks to the work of Mossack Fonseca.

And if you wondered why Boris doesn't want the UK to be subject to new EU regulations during a transition period after March 2019 see above!

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Re: Race to the bottom

So the EU is prepared to take action to prevent a race to the bottom.

Not yet it isn't. This is about a one off sweetheart deal, not about different rates of corporation tax, nor even about legal tax avoidance. Since Luxembourg (home of the EC's president) is a tax haven of greater significance than Ireland, do you really, really think that the EC are going to eliminate these practices? If you do believe that, you might want to read this.

At the heart of this is nothing to do with fairness, "race to the bottom", or even with harmonisation of tax rates, this is all about nationality. The EU is a resolutely Franco-German-Belgian club (of which Luxembourg has always been an honorary member), and you can see this in the way that they hung Greece out to dry, when the problem in Greece was excess lending largely by French and German banks. Or the way they imposed their own choice of government on Italy, because they didn't give a hoot about democracy for Italians The always strained relations with the UK you could argue are our government's fault, I don't believe that's anything like as one sided. And Ireland are in the dock because they are Irish. Portugal was shafted by the EU, but hey! It's only Portugal. Looking at the billions spent by the French propping up Areva or subsidising Airbus over the years, its quite clear that "state aid" is alive and well - so long as the right country is handing out the money. What about the way that the EC threatened action against Spain and Portugal last year for budget deficits that exceeded the 3% rule, but France which has been in breach of that rule since 2008 is left alone? Are you noticing the pattern yet? Likewise, Germany has exceeded the 6% BoP surplus limit for a couple of years, and its currently around 8.5%, and is major contributor to the structural problems of the Euro. No action yet, do you really think the EC will take any?

There appear to be plenty of people who think that the sun shines out of the EU's arse. I really can't understand why they hold this crooked little cabal in such high esteem, when its true nature is as a means of pressing selective national advantage, by stamping on the weakest nations after luring them in with a few free bridges and motorways.

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Re: Race to the bottom

"There appear to be plenty of people who think that the sun shines out of the EU's arse"

Yes, part of the problem with the referendum was that both sides were talking complete bollocks. While the majority of Brexiteers clearly exist in a pure fantasy land of patriotic nostalgia and don't recognize that leaving the EU will have immediate and fairly horrible economic consequences for Britain, many on the remain side also appeared to think the EU itself was mostly about ensuring you could go on a cycling tour of Eastern Europe on gap year and have only a very limited grasp of how the whole thing actually works.

The EU's original form was the European Coal and Steel Community, which was basically a cartel for French banks and German industrialists. Despite it's wider evolution since then, the EU has never really moved away from that central aim - it's there to ensure raw material for German industry and to ensure that French banking interests are able to reap some of the money from it. Everything else is kind of optional.

For example, given how merrily the EU chose to intervene in the democratic politics of Italy or Greece over the past few years, it's stated reasons for allowing the violence in Spain to pass are clearly false; instead, it intervenes in national politics whenever there's a threat that German banks won't receive timely interest payments, and ignores national politics when a government is openly attacking it's own people in the streets, or when Hungary and Poland effectively cease being democracies. That's not exactly the Utopian vision of a united Europe that many Remain supporters still routinely wheel out.

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Boffin

Re: Race to the bottom

Apple seems to have paid about 0.1% tax. About 1/100th of what Ireland taxes are supposed to be.

Ireland has started a court case already in an attempt to show goodwill to Apple, MS, Google, PayPal, ebay, Uber, Amazon, IBM, Intel etc.

I imagine Ireland will lose both cases. The other issue is that due to the Leprechaun Economics fake GDP engendered by these USA parasites (partially caused by stupid USA tax policies and high corporate rates and stupider occasional amnesties that reward dragon hoard behaviour) is that Ireland has changed from a net recipient to contributor to EU budget; so Ireland needs to start enforcing their own tax laws. EU needs to block UK and Dutch Caribbean area tax havens. Also put pressure on Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The International Corporate tax holidays are coming to an end.

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Re: Race to the bottom

The International Corporate tax holidays are coming to an end.

I will believe that when I see it. Note that at the moment, the law prohibits transfer pricing, but in many cases that's exactly what many of the US tech (and even coffee) companies are doing. If the EU and national governments won't enforce the existing rules, nor clarify them, what are the chances that the very clever tax accountants and lawyers won't find a way round any new rules?

As much as anything, any new rules will undoubtedly be additive, rather than replacing existing rules, and that means greater complexity. Greater complexity means more chance of unintended outcomes, and more opportunity to find loopholes. Tax codes are no different to computer code: The bigger the volume of code, the more flaws it will have, and once you get to a critical mass, there's no way of fixing all the real and putative flaws, other than by starting again. And if national tax codes are a huge program, then all the international treaties and EU laws are code libraries - you link into those hoping for the best, but they're approximated for another purpose, and nobody has real control over whatever the outcome will be.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Race to the bottom

On the subject of Luxembourg: I see they've been give orders to collect 250 million. While that not such a huge figure it does seem that the EC is willing to act against them if necessary.

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Re: Race to the bottom

It may well explain why they're so keen not to have any exposure to the ECJ.

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LDS
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"when the problem in Greece was excess lending"

Sure, they borrowed a lot of money, spent them, and then whined they couldn't repay them.

Italy was on the same line - just it is too big to fail, unlike Greece, and also too big to save - but Berlusconi fell only because his government was unable to continue, and bankruptcy was closer than most think.

France was allowed more deficit because it started from a relatively low debt (it was 68% of GDP in 2008: https://countryeconomy.com/national-debt/france) , and its economy is still quite ok - it's the same reason why the US debt is less worryingly than that of other countries, despite being quite big. Portugal GDP is the same size of Greece (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_in_Europe_by_GDP_(nominal)), and has a 130% debt.

France debt has become a problem now that reached 100% - one Macron has to tackle.

Who would you lend money? To someone who earns enough money to pay interests, or someone who would go bankrupt soon?

Also look at the state aid regulation... not all are illegal - but those who alter completion are.

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Re: Race to the bottom

Tax reform needs to happen at the OECD level so that FDI isn't driven out of Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Race to the bottom

It's not transfer pricing as such, it's that anyone company can run it's business from any EU state it choses, in these software companies they can assign the intellectual property to a defined location as well. After all, the real work that makes the profit for Apple is essentially carried out in the USA, Europe is just a Sales point. If Apple (for example) charges the same ex-works prices everywhere, and it covers the cost of sales in a location, on what basis should more "profit" get allocated ?

Remember, in the end, the companies don't pay the tax, you, the consumer or worker (or to a limited degree the owner) pay the tax. Company tax is just a trick, and it's the classic one that most people fall for, to make you think that "other people are paying this". But they're not, you are and will continue to do so.

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Re: Race to the bottom

I don't know why you qualify the owner as "to a limited degree". Everyone is on the hook, including the owners. Let's say you have a company making widgets you make for $1 each and sell for $2 each. You have an overhead of $250K/yr and at a price of $2 per widget there is a market for a million widgets a year. That means you make $750K/yr, not bad.

Now someone comes along and says widgets make you go blind, and a tax of $1 per widget is added. That means you make them for $1, and sell them for $3 and still make the same $750K/yr, right? Wrong! Unless the demand for widgets is completely inelastic (very rare, and only true of certain absolute necessities or luxury items) you'll sell fewer widgets at that higher price. Let's say the demand for widgets at $3/ea is only 600 thousand a year. So now you have $1.8 million in revenue, $600K in cost of goods, $600K in taxes, and $250K in overhead so the owner's profit has been more than cut in half to only $350K.

In almost all cases, both the customers AND the owners of a corporation pay its taxes. The workers may also pay part of the tax, if for example the owner decides to not pay a Christmas bonus to cut his overhead due to the lower demand for widgets caused by the tax. A tax on the corporation's profits is a more direct and obvious hit on the owner's income, but the same issue with higher price = lower demand will apply if people naively assume "oh, well the owner will just raise prices to cover the tax so he makes the same money as before". In most cases, it doesn't work that way.

I don't understand why people live under the delusion that only the customers pay corporate taxes, and somehow the owners are immune. I guess this is a meme spread by people who want to make it sound like eliminating corporate taxes is good for the average person. The biggest problem with eliminating corporate taxes is that some owners are immune from taxation - i.e. those who live outside your country, or own other loss making companies they can deduct against. If you're OK with those then yeah, eliminating corporate taxes and collecting them when they become income for the owners would simplify the tax system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Race to the bottom

"If you wonder why Teresa May triggered article 50 when it was abundantly clear the UK was not in a position to start the process you have to understand that the decision was taken for her by the vested interests in the Tory party along with the kippers."

No it was triggered because we voted for it.

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Re: Race to the bottom

@AC

"No it was triggered because we voted for it."

Be careful pointing out little things like democracy. It doesnt fit with the narrative of why the righteous and pious could possibly lose a vote.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Race to the bottom

I don't understand why people live under the delusion that only the customers pay corporate taxes

Because most economists live in a classroom environment where inconveniences are ignored for simplicity and the real world is a far more complicated place?

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So: Amazon owes 250m, Apple billions... and all enforced by a European system on rules limiting state aid. Rules that Corbyn wants to ditch.

I bet the tax dodging corporations will love having him as PM...

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Anonymous Coward

Fortunately the EU don't seem to have noticed the state aid being funneled to UK banks and other financial institutions.

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They did....

...hence why RBS had to dispose of assets, why Lloyds had to get rid of branches etc. etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Debt Collectors

So, council's are always quick to send a debt collector for one weeks worth of road car tax being missed, it can be in and out of a court and to a debt collector within a week and they'll demand the full years tax because you missed one week... so whats taking so long with Apple? Its been to court so where are the Debt collectors?

(Happened to be, they took payment late (Late DD) so they took it to court even though they still had the money....)

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Re: Debt Collectors

What is happening is the old law

"You owe the bank £10 and it is your problem. You owe the bank £10,000,000,000 and it is the Banks problem."

in action. You and your missed car tax are the low hanging fruit. Easy pickings.

Amazon, Apple and the rest have teams of high paid lawyers that will take things through the courts until someone at the top says Yes or No. For the EU to fine the Irish Government for not collecting the Apple money even while an appeal to the court is outstanding is a bit disingenious to me.

It would not surprise me that the Apple money is sitting in an Escrow account somewhere waiting for the legal moves to end.

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Re: Debt Collectors

A court order is a court order. You comply or go to jail. It's quite simple.

E.g. your child is removed from your care. You can appeal against it. Does the child stay with you while the appeal goes on?

E.g. A million pound judgement is made against you for a public liability (i.e. you let someone kill themselves by not having adequate safeguards). The court orders safeguards and to pay the victim's family. Do you think you can string that out for a year and not do either?

E.g. You don't pay your tax bill. A court orders you to pay your tax bill. You dispute that X should be marked as an expense. You STILL have to pay the court, while your appeal is occurring.

Notice the word escrow in the article. i.e. we have the money from Apple, it's there, nobody can take it from us, but we won't budget it / use it / spend it until the appeal is actually finalised. And if we do need to give it back, we can do so quickly.

With a court, you comply. If you win the appeal, you'll get it all back. All you lose is the potential interest on it, but if you're dealing in figures of billions, the interest on that is really chicken feed still even if it sounds a big number when stated alone.

Feet-dragging in a case like that is really just politics, not law. Apple are REQUIRED to pay Ireland, who are REQUIRED to collect it. That it takes more than a day to organise is ridiculous, even if you have to shift it between accounts to make things tally. Ireland are dragging their feet not because lawyers are filing appeals - the escrow covers that and the court has ALREADY ordered Apple to pay - but because they don't want to lose Apple's business.

Personally, I'd be adding on interest for everyday it was overdue.

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Re: Debt Collectors

"A court order is a court order. You comply or go to jail. It's quite simple"

Ah, the naivety of one who has never dealt with the court system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Debt Collectors

Ah, the usual witterings from the sidelines. This isn't about ten grand or even 10 million. It's about a disputed tax bill of 13 billion. So the Irish Government collects it from Apple and sticks it in an escrow bank account pending the outcome of the ECJ appeal. I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that interest rates are negative for such high levels of cash. After ten years, the ECJ sides with Ireland and Apple, as they've done in every other lunatic case raised by this woman. Apple says "great! Ireland, can we have our 13B back (plus interest?)" and Ireland finds that the balance on the account is now 10B because you know, those French and German bankers need to be *paid* to store that money. So Ireland now has to pay out 3 billion euro to Apple for a case that should never have happened in the first place.

So, objective #1 is a way to accept the money without leading to a huge financial loss to the Irish taxpaer when (not if) it has to be returned on foot of the ECJ appeal.

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Popcorn

Popcorn, popcorn, popcorn!!!

A BELAZ sized bag of popcorn.

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This is bad and wrong. Before you get all huffy and grumble about 'Apple' and 'Billions', think about the *principle* here.

Apple complied with all Irish laws. They paid all the taxes that were due under Irish law. They did nothing wrong and nothing illegal.

The EC now says those laws themselves were illegal - laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility for the laws in their country. THEY made the mistake; why should Apple pay the price??!! If there's any penalty to be paid, it should be paid by the Irish government - NOT by Apple.

If the EC can do this to Apple, they can do it to ANY company - big or small. Think it through.

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Back up a bit boy.

The laws in which Apple paid the taxes aren't the same for all the other companies operating in Ireland or the EU. The Irish state made an exception for Apple in the way it paid tax. That's the problem, and that's wrong.

So there was no mistake. It was a sweetheart deal and both Apple and the Irish State are complicit in it. For it to be a mistake one party wouldn't know what was going on. They both knew.

Now, in Ireland the country isn't exactly flush with cash. There are people dying on the streets, people being made homeless daily due to lack of housing and there are regularly hundreds of operations cancelled daily because the health care system can't cope. The money that Apple didn't want to pay in taxes, the same amount of money that the Irish state doesn't want to take from Apple (think that statement through) would go a hell of a long way to rectify those problems.

The state owes it to it's people to get the money to fix the country. It owes an American corporation fuck all.

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Anonymous Coward

Curious.

How much of this money goes to Ireland and how much to the EU?

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> How much of this money goes to Ireland and how much to the EU?

AFAIK, it all goes to Ireland.

Whether it then gets factored into a percentage later in terms of what the EU gives/takes from Ireland is another matter, but the actual money under discussion goes to the Irish treasury.

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@ corestore

"The EC now says those laws themselves were illegal - laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility for the laws in their country"

The mistake there is to think Ireland has sovereignty. They surrendered to the EU, they are now the proud possession of the EU.

"why should Apple pay the price"

The US and EU were negotiating a trade deal which the EU was gagging for. In the fight against freedom the point was made that Obama would put the UK to the back of the queue and the EU liked that. Then Trump not only removed the deal from the EU but may as well slapped them in the face with a wet fish by offering a trade deal to us. The EU is currently attacking US companies. I am not sure if its because the EU economy is so bad they need an evil to distract the populations, the EU finances are so desperately bad they need the money or that it just makes them feel important.

"If the EC can do this to Apple, they can do it to ANY company - big or small. Think it through."

Spot on. The EU is not a fair membership either. Not only is the EU attacking US companies but they also attack their smaller members while letting the larger ones get away with almost anything. Probably why they are bawling their eyes out over brexit and their pathetic bullying not resulting in the goodies they demand.

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LDS
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"laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility"

Wrong. When Ireland joined the EU, it accepted to abide to EU rules. There are EU wide rules that overrule local state ones, and aren't optional. Just like in the US federal rules overrule local state ones.

Rules about state aids are among them. The illegal deal was made with Apple, that's why Ireland has to ask the money to Apple. Sure, it can be done to *any* company that benefited from *illegal state aids*, and it was done.

If you don't like the rules - and you knew them when you joined - you can do like UK and leave the Union. The EU funds will stop as well, and probably many companies that put their European HQ in Ireland because it was in the EU will leave as well. It's up to Ireland to choose what it prefers. Just, it can't have just the benefits of being in the EU ignoring the rules when it doesn't like them.

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Re: "laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility"(@ LDS)

^This!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility"

Why not? France and Germany have always done so!

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LDS
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"Why not? France and Germany have always done so!"

Are you sure?

"State aid: Commission orders France to recover €1.37 billion in incompatible aid from EDF"

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5424_en.htm

Or just look at how Draghi and the European Central Bank has been able to activate the quantitative easing despite German protests...

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Re: "laws made by the Irish government, which has sovereign and complete responsibility"

"Why not? France and Germany have always done so!"

Ah yes, the famous retort from the infamous Anonymous Ukipper.

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Anonymous Coward

>AFAIK, it all goes to Ireland.

Practically none - this is taxation owed (by Ireland from Apple) to the other member states. Germany, France and UK will be due a good half, probably more.

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