Monday 19 August 2019

Varadkar's legal threat to Apple on €13bn tax bill

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Colm Kelpie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar threatened the Government may take Apple to court over the delay in coughing up €13bn in back taxes demanded by the European Commission.

Brussels has already referred Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to collect the money more than a year after the technology giant was ordered to pay up.

The Government and Apple have consistently insisted the tax was never owed, and both have appealed the controversial ruling. It has said officials have been working on establishing an escrow fund to house the money once the final amount is calculated.

But Mr Varadkar upped the ante yesterday as he appeared to cast blame for the delay on to Apple. Suggesting a strain in relations between the Government and one of the country's biggest employers, the Taoiseach said the Government didn't want to be in the position where it would have to take legal action against Apple.

"We've indicated to them (Apple) that we want the escrow account established and we want funds to be paid into the escrow account without further delay," Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

"We do not want to be in the situation where the Irish Government has to take Apple to court because the European Commission is taking the Irish Government to court.

"I think that message is understood and I'd anticipate progress in the coming weeks."

Mr Varadkar did not state what the basis for the court action might be, should the Government feel the need to opt for that course of action.

The comments come just weeks after Apple boss Tim Cook effectively pulled the plug on the construction of a €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.

Plans for the centre were first announced in February 2015, but Apple grew increasingly frustrated over time as the process was held up by planning reviews and court challenges.

Last month, EC Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager announced the commission would take court-enforcement action against Ireland over failure to collect the tax money, which is under appeal by both Ireland and Apple.

Irish officials insist they are still working to comply with the commission ruling, which will involve calculating the exact amount to be owed before setting up an escrow account.

But Ms Vestager told this newspaper she was still unclear about the timeframe by which Dublin would collect the €13bn.

Irish Independent

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