Sunday 21 January 2018

If I backed Ireland on Apple I'd have to quit - Hogan

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Phil Hogan has said he would have had to resign from his job at the European Commission if he hadn't backed its ruling that Apple's tax arrangements amounted to illegal State aid.

The former Fine Gael TD's backing of the ruling is in direct conflict with the position taken by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who both insist there was no wrongdoing in the State's dealings with Apple.

However, Mr Hogan has said Commission decisions are - like those of Cabinet - subject to collective responsibility.

The Agriculture Commissioner added that after taking an oath to operate independently "you have no choice but to actually adhere to the decision of the Commission. Otherwise you'd have to make another decision, which is to resign".

His remarks on RTÉ came as Independent Minister Katherine Zappone spoke of how she contemplated leaving Government last week due to her reservations over Fine Gael's plan to appeal the Apple ruling.

"I considered it at length over the couple of days," she said while insisting she had been committed to finding a solution because she has "important work" to do as Children's Minister. Ultimately, she backed the appeal and said she secured "a number of commitments from government that moves us strongly into a new era of tax justice." The Government has promised an independent review of the tax system for multinationals.

Meanwhile, Mr Hogan rejected suggestions Brussels is trying to influence Ireland's tax policy through the Apple tax demand. He said: "This is not about taxation rates... It is about State aid rules being implemented fairly so we have a level playing pitch for companies."

Mr Hogan also dismissed suggestions the EU stance on Ireland's handling of Apple's tax could affect future investment by multinationals, saying "Ireland is well located to take advantage of the huge markets within the EU and people come here for very good reasons."

He was speaking as he attended the opening of the Cork 2.0 Rural Development conference, and was welcomed by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Mr Creed said that, while he respected Mr Hogan's position, "It is absurd, in my view, that the EU Commission would take the view that the Irish Revenue Commissioners have any role to collect taxes on a global basis. We have no legal standing for that."

He also said the Government sees it as an attempt to dilute Ireland's sovereignty in tax affairs.

Mr Hogan said Brussels and Dublin understood and respected each other's positions.

"It will now be a matter for the European Court to decide who is right and who is wrong," he said.

Irish Independent

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