Business Technology

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Apple warns of financial cost from probe on tax deal with Ireland

Apple has a firm based in Cork. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Apple has a firm based in Cork. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

TECHNOLOGY giant Apple has warned for the first time that it could face “material” financial damage from the European Commission’s investigation into tax deals with Ireland.

While Apple hasn’t been able to estimate the amount, it could run into billions that it would need to pay back to the Irish exchequer.

Any windfall to the state would be unwanted, as it would  embarrass the Government and could also trigger further probes into Ireland’s dealings with multinational companies.

The European Commission last year said it was looking into whether Ireland improperly gave Apple’s two subsidiaries state aid.

“The company believes the European Commission’s assertions are without merit,” Apple said in the filing.

But it acknowledged: “If the European Commission were to conclude against Ireland, the European Commission could require Ireland to recover from the company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid.”

This is the first time that the global giant behind the iPad and iPhone brands has disclosed the potential consequences of the tax probe.

The technology company made the revelation yesterday in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under US securities rules, a material event is usually defined as 5pc of a company’s average pre-tax earnings for the past three years.

It is common for US companies to warn shareholders of potential risk factors that could affect their future results.

Apple’s dealings in Ireland have been under intense scrutiny since claims of special tax rates were raised in the US Senate in 2013.

Both the Government here and Apple have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The Government insists Apple “did not receive selective treatment and was taxed fully in accordance with the law”.

Last year Apple finance chief Luca Maestri told the Financial Times: “It’s very important that people understand that there was no special deal that we cut with Ireland. We simply followed the laws in the country over the 35 years that we have been in Ireland.”

A final decision from Brussels is expected before the end of June.

It is being closely watched as a litmus test of the new competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s view on multinationals and their tax strategies.

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