EU justice overturns decision ordering Apple to reimburse 13 billion euros

The European judges inflicted a huge setback on the Commission, which had ordered Apple to reimburse Ireland 13 billion euros in tax benefits deemed undue by Brussels. “We welcome the judgment of the European Court,” responded the Irish finance ministry.

The European judges on Wednesday annulled the decision of the European Commission which had summoned in the summer of 2016 Apple to reimburse Ireland 13 billion euros in tax benefits deemed undue by Brussels . The Commission and its Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who thus suffer a huge setback, have failed to demonstrate “the existence of a selective economic advantage”, according to European justice.

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“There has never been special treatment”, says Ireland

“Nous saluons le jugement de la Cour européenne”, a souligné le ministère irlandais des Finances dans un communiqué, affirmant qu’il “n’y a jamais eu de traitement spécial” pour Apple, taxé selon les règles en vigueur dans le pays. Quant à Margrethe Vestager, elle a déclaré dans un communiqué qu’elle allait “étudier avec attention le jugement et réfléchir aux prochaines étapes”, sans toutefois dire si Bruxelles allait faire appel de cet arrêt.

Usually, when cases are appealed to the Court, the final decision comes about 16 months later. So in the case of Apple, in the year 2021. “The European Commission maintains its objective of seeing all companies pay their fair share of taxes”, added Margrethe Vestager, in her press release.

An agreement with the Dublin authorities

This long-awaited judgment comes the day before another decision in an equally sensitive case, this time concerning Facebook and the transfers of personal data from Europe to the rest of the world. In the case of Apple, the affair dates back to August 30, 2016: Margrethe Vestager then decided to strike a blow against the multinational.

According to the Commission’s investigation, Apple had repatriated to Ireland, between 2003 and 2014, all of the income earned in Europe (as well as in Africa, the Middle East and India) because the company benefited there from favorable tax treatment, thanks to an agreement with the Dublin authorities. The Commission claimed that the group had thus escaped almost all of the taxes it would have had to pay over this period, or around 13 billion euros, according to its calculations.