The European Commission has said Ireland needs to demonstrate progress on recovering the €13bn in back taxes from Apple, warning that the Government was taking too long to collect the money.
The money allegedly owed to Ireland is now five months overdue. The Department of Finance has repeatedly said that it is working with the European Commission (EC) and Apple to nail down the specific amount that must be paid, arguing it is a complex task.
But Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, inset, who delivered the decision last summer, ramped up the pressure when she told CNBC that the process was taking too long, although she said she hoped the money would be recovered very soon.
The EC also stated that if a member state fails to meet its obligations, court action could follow. A spokeswoman said yesterday that Brussels now expects progress “as soon as possible”, adding: “The Commission is always ready to support the Member State in the recovery process and gives consideration to the fact that recovery in certain cases may be more complex than in others, and thus may require some more time.”
She added: “At the same time, the Member State must demonstrate progress on recovery and a coherent strategy to enforce the decision within the set deadline.” The EC said that if a member state fails to meet its obligation, the Commission could refer it to the EU courts for failure to “implement a state aid decision”. The Department of Finance said it is working with the EC and Apple on the issue, but could give no indication of when the payment would be made.
“Although the formal deadline has now passed, it is not unusual or uncommon for Member States to require more time for recovery,” a spokesman for Finance Minister Michael Noonan reiterated.
“Irish officials are continuing this intensive work to ensure that the State complies with all our recovery obligations as soon as possible, and remain in regular contact with the Commission and Apple.” The EC announced last August that Ireland must collect €13bn plus interest from Apple for taxes that were unpaid over a decade as a result of a tax treatment that amounted to illegal State aid to the company.
The Government and Apple have appealed the decision. Once collected, it is to be held in an escrow account, while challenges to the ruling by the State and Apple work through the European courts. It is understood that officials are working to determine the specific amount that Apple must pay, which includes detailed work around profits and where those profits came from.
It is also believed that Ms Vestager’s intervention has been met with surprise by officials.