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Noonan - 'Back me against bizarre EU ruling on Aple tax'

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Michael Noonan said ‘no one in Ireland did anything wrong’ Picture: Tom Burke

Michael Noonan said ‘no one in Ireland did anything wrong’ Picture: Tom Burke

Michael Noonan said ‘no one in Ireland did anything wrong’ Picture: Tom Burke

Michael Noonan will today ask Independent ministers to back his plan to fight the European Commission's ruling that Ireland must demand €13bn in back taxes from Apple.

Amid demands from opposition TDs that the cash should be used for housing, Finance Minister Mr Noonan is seeking the support of wavering Independent colleagues to appeal against the decision in European courts.

Ministers will assemble at a special Cabinet meeting, with Mr Noonan uncertain of the support of the Independent Alliance.

Shocked

The Alliance last night issued only a brief statement to say its five TDs were "shocked" by the decision on Apple's tax arrangements. They said they would review the commission's statement, bringing in "our own independent experts".

Independent junior minister John Halligan said at the weekend that if Apple was found to owe taxes to the State, "it should pay them and that's it", and that the cash should be used to fix the health service and build houses. Mr Halligan declined to say if that remained his position last night.

Mr Noonan was asked by RTE Radio if his Independent government colleagues would back Fine Gael's view that the State must appeal against the European ruling.

"Cabinet works on the basis of everybody having their say," he replied. "I'll be proposing that the decision is that we appeal and then it's for ministers of whatever political colour to state their opinion."

He said an appeal was "the proper thing to do. No one in Ireland did anything wrong".

"The Revenue Commissioners collected every euro of tax that's due from profits made by Apple in Cork on their Irish activities," he said.

Mr Noonan called the commission's ruling "bizarre" and said there was "no economic basis for this decision".

He said that even if the €13bn ended up in the State's coffers in the event that an appeal was lost, under EU fiscal rules the bulk of it would have to be used to pay down the national debt.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager yesterday announced the findings of the State Aid investigation into Apple's Irish tax arrangements dating from 1991 and 2007.

"Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses," said Ms Vestager.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the ruling "an effort to rewrite Apple's history in Europe, ignore Ireland's tax laws and upend the international tax system in the process". He said Apple would appeal and was confident the ruling would be reversed.

Mr Noonan's intention for the State to appeal was attacked by opposition TDs.

"Champagne corks should be popping with the news that €13bn is owed to the State. Instead, the panic button has been pressed," said Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy.

He accused the Government of representing the interests of corporations and said €13bn was enough money to clear the housing waiting list.

Sweetheart

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty called for a public inquiry into what he described as "a sweetheart deal with Apple" and said that any decision to appeal against the European ruling should be put to a Dail vote.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said his party was reviewing the ruling, but that it "seems to run contrary" to international tax reforms.

He said those "clamouring" to accept the decision would be advised to consider the wider implications beyond a €13bn windfall that "will remain out of reach during legal challenges".

Mr McGrath said foreign direct investment had been at the heart of Ireland's economic development, and central to this has been the country's commitment to its corporate tax rate.

"This must remain the case," he added.


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