Wednesday 21 February 2018

Martin: It's wrong that we are in the dark on Apple ruling

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture by Shane O'Neill Photography.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture by Shane O'Neill Photography.

Cormac McQuinn and Ryan Nugent

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said "it's regrettable and it's wrong" that the European Commission's ruling on Apple won't be published in full ahead of Wednesday's Dáil debate on the matter.

Labour's Joan Burton has said that without the full 150-page ruling being published the debate will be "a sham exercise".

Joan Burton: debate will be a ‘sham’ without the full ruling. Photo: Tom Burke
Joan Burton: debate will be a ‘sham’ without the full ruling. Photo: Tom Burke

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan noted that TDs will be "debating in the dark".

The Government has taken the decision to appeal the ruling that the State seek €13bn in back taxes from the tech giant, rejecting the Commission's finding that Apple's tax arrangements had amounted to illegal State aid.

Both the State and Apple have denied any wrongdoing.

While Cabinet can make the decision to appeal without a Dáil vote, a full debate on the matter was a condition sought by Independent ministers to back Finance Minister Michael Noonan's plan to fight the Commission.

However, his spokesman last night confirmed that the full ruling would not be made available to TDs ahead of the debate, saying: "It's not our document to give."

Junior finance minister Eoghan Murphy elaborated further, telling the Irish Independent: "The decision is a European Commission document and contains information of a confidential and commercially sensitive nature relating to Apple."

Though supporting an appeal, Mr Martin said that it was "incredible" that the Commission announced its ruling on the Apple case without publishing the document in full.

"I think that's a weakness and we should have access by now."

He doesn't expect to see the report's contents before Wednesday's debate, adding: "I think that's very regrettable and it's wrong."

Read more: Novel EC ruling won't scare away international businesses but has reignited debate on how to tax them

Labour finance spokeswoman Ms Burton said: "The Dáil is being recalled to debate a 150-page ruling that only members of the Government have had the opportunity to read.

"In advance of this debate, it is essential that all opposition parties are given access to this ruling, on a confidential basis if necessary. Otherwise, the entire debate will be a sham exercise."

Mr Ryan, whose party is opposed to an appeal, expressed his disappointment that the full ruling won't be provided to TDs.

"A lot of the debate is being done without real knowledge of the actual nitty-gritty of the decision," he said.

"Not being able to see the judgment means that we're slightly debating in the dark. I think that's a real problem."

He called on Mr Noonan to provide as much detail as possible on what is in the document ahead of the debate.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, - whose party is opposed to a State appeal - has also called on the Government to publish the report in full.

While the Finance Department did not last night release the wording of the government motion, a spokesman said TDs would be asked to debate four main points. They are:

  • To ask that TDs support the Government's plan to appeal the European Commission's ruling.
  • To reaffirm that no individual or company should get preferential treatment from the Irish tax system.
  • That Ireland's tax system is operated to the highest international standard.
  • And to reaffirm Ireland's 12.5pc corporate tax rate, the Research and Development tax credit and an international tax measure known as the Knowledge Development Box.

The motion will also reaffirm that taxation policy is a power retained by EU member states. Labour has supported the Government's plan to appeal the Commission's ruling.

However, Ms Burton said that her party would table amendments to the Government's motion. Among the proposed changes are a demand that more be done to close down remaining loopholes in tax law and that minimum effective tax rate for all companies be introduced in the Budget.

Irish Independent

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