Tuesday 12 December 2017

Taoiseach and Noonan personally briefed Facebook and Google on Apple tax row

Documents reveal meetings with tech chiefs on EU Apple row
Finance Minister Michael Noonan (left) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Michael Noonan (left) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Google’s Irish HQ on Dublin’s Barrow Street Picture: PA
Documents show that Michael Noonan briefed a group of Facebook officials - including the company's chief financial officer Dave Wehner - on the case and other matters during a visit to the US (Stock picture)

Cormac McQuinn and Gavin McLoughlin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have personally briefed Google and Facebook executives about the implications of the EU ruling on Apple's Irish tax arrangements.

Kenny was asked for a briefing on the case by Google's global head of public policy Caroline Atkinson, records released to the Sunday Independent under Freedom of Information reveal.

Kenny spoke of "the Government's intention to appeal on the basis that there was no deal or special treatment".

"He [Kenny] recognised the importance of certainty for enterprise and investors, and the difficulty the case created in that respect," the minutes add.

The EU Commission finding that Ireland had given "illegal tax benefits" worth €13bn to Apple since 1991 has been strongly rejected by the Government. The decision announced last August sparked fears of a negative impact on foreign direct investment.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said the meeting - held in Government buildings - "took place at Google's request to facilitate engagement between the Taoiseach and one of their senior executives [Atkinson] - who was then visiting Europe and wished to brief the Taoiseach on Google's activities and plans".

Google’s Irish HQ on Dublin’s Barrow Street Picture: PA
Google’s Irish HQ on Dublin’s Barrow Street Picture: PA

He said the meeting took place shortly after the announcement and Atkinson asked in general terms about the Government's plan.

Asked if a negative outcome on the Government's appeal would affect the company's presence here, Google said: "We meet regularly with politicians and policymakers on a wide range of issues so that we can better understand the Irish business environment, answer politicians' questions and explain the opportunity for businesses."

Google is currently embroiled in controversy, with Irish ad buyer Core Media among those pulling business with Google's YouTube over fears client ads are appearing beside extremist content.

The documents show that Noonan briefed a group of Facebook officials - including the company's chief financial officer Dave Wehner - on the case and other matters during a visit to the US.

A Finance Department spokesman said the discussion was limited to what the Government has been saying publicly about the case. Noonan also met Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, at a cocktail party at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.

Sunday Indo Business

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