Friday 28 October 2016

Spend Apple tax on housing if EU rules on deal - minister

Halligan tells Noonan: take US firm's billions ahead of Brussels verdict

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

CONTROVERSY: Independent Alliance’s John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke
CONTROVERSY: Independent Alliance’s John Halligan. Photo: Tom Burke

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been told to accept the EU Commissions ruling on Ireland's alleged 'sweetheart' tax deal with Apple if it means the US tech giant is forced to handover billions of euros in unpaid taxes.

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Brussels is widely expected to publish a damning judgement against the Government this week, saying illegal State aid was given to Apple.

The US multinational could then be ordered to hand over billions of euros in unpaid taxes.

Previous estimates have suggested Ireland could be in line to collect as much as €19bn in taxes from Apple.

However, Mr Noonan has indicated in the past that he will appeal a ruling against Ireland and Apple.

But now, Independent Alliance Junior Minister John Halligan has said no company should be able to "hold the country to ransom", and insisted any outstanding taxes should be used to fix the health service and build houses.

"If Apple owes taxes to the State, they should pay them and that's it," the minister told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Halligan's comments were echoed by super junior minister Finian McGrath, who said: "Everyone should pay their taxes, full stop".

However, an Independent Alliance spokesman said a final position on the issue had not been reached, and the group is expected to meet this week to discuss the situation.

The demands of the Independent Alliance ministers came as panic set in within Fine Gael.

Senior figures fear that a negative EU judgement will leave Ireland's international reputation in tatters.

One minister said an adverse EU finding will be "embarrassing" and cause "reputational damage", as the country is seeking to recover from the economic crash.

"If we have this decision saying we were giving illegal State aid, then it bring us right back to square one in trying to fix our reputation," the minister told the Sunday Independent.

Another Fine Gael source said an adverse finding will put the Government in an "awkward position" ahead of October's Budget.

"You could have a situation where Europe says Apple owes us billions and we have to say no thank you very much," the source said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said there will "serious questions to answer" in the event of a finding against Ireland over the Apple tax deal.

"From our point of view, we will examine any negative finding very carefully, we will assess what the Government and Revenue have to say, and make a call on it from there," Mr McGrath said.

Brussels has alleged Ireland struck a deal with Apple in the 1990s which saw the company base thousands of hi-tech jobs here in return for favourable tax treatment.

The EU Commission has claimed the deal breached international rules and amounted to Ireland giving Apple illegal State aid.

Apple has categorically denied it has an inappropriate arrangement with the Irish government which it allows it to pay less tax.

Mr Halligan said he believes that international firms are avoiding paying tax in Ireland."I'm not against multinationals and they do bring jobs to Ireland, but you can't hold the country to ransom. You have to pay legitimate tax," he said.

Sunday Independent

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