FF to back appeal as Apple tax ruling poses 'political landmine'
Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is on stand-by to immediately appeal a ruling by the European Commission that Apple must pay billions in back-tax to Ireland.
The equivalent of a crisis management plan has been put in place by the Department of Finance ahead of the decision in the coming days.
Fianna Fáil will back the Department of Finance's appeal through the European courts, but ministers are concerned about a "political landmine" when it comes to dealing with the Independent Alliance.
The Government hadn't expected EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to decide whether Revenue Commissioners gave the technology giant an unfair 'sweetheart' tax deal until after October's Budget - but ministers were last night being warned the decision will drop early this week.
The Irish Independent understands the five members of the Independent Alliance, including John Halligan and Finian McGrath who have indicated they want any Apple money to be spent on public services, will be summoned to a meeting with Department of Finance officials before the outcome is publicly announced.
"This idea someone has put in their heads that this money can be used for hospitals or schools is nonsense," said a senior Fine Gael figure.
They noted that even if Ireland was to be awarded €5bn on the back of the decision, under EU fiscal rules that "windfall" would have to be used to pay the national debt.
Cabinet ministers have been warned to expect a negative ruling but do not yet know the final figure, with one saying: "At this stage it's a matter of how much."
Estimates have routinely ranged from €8bn to €19bn, but government sources were last night suggesting the figure could be as low as €800m.
The State has denied the allegations that Apple, who employ 5,000 people at their European headquarters in Cork, were treated to a better corporation tax deal between 1991 and 2007 than other companies.
Junior Finance Minister Eoghan Murphy told the Irish Independent: "If it's a negative decision it's in the national interest to protect our reputation and appeal it.
"The Revenue Commissioners do not have the scope or powers under the Oireachtas to do such a deal."
This position is shared by Fianna Fáil who will back an appeal. The party's public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said: "We are of the view that it should be fought if it's a negative decision."