Business Technology

Tuesday 16 January 2018

State fears being on hook for Apple cash

As Apple prepares to hand over the money for safe keeping, Ireland wants to make sure it isn't left on the hook for any drop in the value of the fund during the years of court appeals. Photo: PA
As Apple prepares to hand over the money for safe keeping, Ireland wants to make sure it isn't left on the hook for any drop in the value of the fund during the years of court appeals. Photo: PA
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The Government is trying to find a way to indemnify itself against any losses stemming from holding about €13bn of Apple's back taxes, according to a report by Bloomberg citing people familiar with the follow-up to last year's record-breaking European Union state-aid ruling.

The Government is late collecting the funds that EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager ordered had to be charged because Ireland had undercharged the tech giant on tax for years.

The Irish Government and Apple both dispute that view, and are challenging the ruling through the European courts.

In the meantime, however, Irish officials have been left to arrange the logistics of holding an unprecedented amount of cash in escrow, potentially for as long as a decade.

Euro-area banks, including Irish lenders, currently charge to hold large corporate deposits, rather than paying interest.

As Apple prepares to hand over the money for safe keeping, Ireland wants to make sure it isn't left on the hook for any drop in the value of the fund during the years of court appeals.

That's according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations on the structure of the proposed account are ongoing.

If the appeal, which could take as long as five years, is successful, the money will be returned to Apple.

If the markets shift, and banks start paying interest again, it is not clear whether Ireland or Apple would own the profits.

A Department of Finance spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Ireland should step up its efforts to recoup about unpaid taxes from Apple or it could end up in court, the Commission said last month.

The money was due to be collected by a January 3 deadline, but arrangement to manage the fund weren't ready on time.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said a tender seeking offers to manage the project was being prepared.

Ireland has used legal indemnities before to protect itself. The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland was part funded by a German state-owned development bank when the SBCI was set up in 2014. As part of that process, the Irish Government agreed to make good any losses the Germans might suffer. In turn, the Department of Finance is entitled to claim losses back from the SBCI.

It is understood the job of managing the Apple money falls with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which already looks after the State's own cash balances. However, the Apple funds will have to be held separately. (Additional reporting Bloomberg)

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