Picture used for illustrative purpose. File
Europe's second-highest court on Wednesday rejected an EU order for Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in Irish back taxes, dealing a blow to the bloc's attempts to crack down on sweetheart tax deals.
In its order four years ago, the European Commission said Apple benefited from illegal state aid via two Irish tax rulings that artificially reduced its tax burden for over two decades - to as low as 0.005% in 2014.
"The General Court annuls the contested decision because the Commission did not succeed in showing to the requisite legal standard that there was an advantage for the purposes of Article 107(1) TFEU1," judges said, referring to EU competition rules.
The defeat for European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager could weaken or delay pending cases against Ikea's and Nike's deals with the Netherlands, as well as Huhtamaki's agreement with Luxembourg.
Vestager, who has made the tax crackdown a centrepiece of her time in office, saw the same court last year overturn her demand for Starbucks to pay up to 30 million euros in Dutch back taxes. In another case, the court also threw out her ruling against a Belgian tax scheme for 39 multinationals.
While 14 billion euros - including interest - would have gone a long way to plugging the coronavirus-shaped hole in Ireland's finances, Dublin appealed against the Commission's order alongside Apple because it wanted to protect a low tax regime that has attracted 250,000 multinational employers.
However, the government is likely to face strong criticism from opposition parties for not taking the cash, which could cover at least half of a budget deficit forecast to balloon to as much as 10% of GDP this year.
The defeated side can appeal on points of law to the EU Court of Justice, Europe's highest court.
The EU's tax demand, made three years ago, "defies reality and common sense," Apple's lawyer Daniel Beard told the EU's lower General Court.
The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, was given a clean bill of health, lifted out directly from the blacklist after rushing through reforms.
BERLIN: Dutch central bank Governor Klaas Knot expects the eurozone economy to recover speed in the second half after a sluggish start to the year, but in an interview with Handelsblatt the noted hawk was distinctly dovish on long-term interest rates. Knot, one of the most prominent hawks on the European Central Bank’s rate-setting committee told the German paper
The first half of 2019 saw the number of authorised Tax Agents increase by more than 110 per cent to exceed 370 Agents, up from 176 by the end of 2018, asserted the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) as it hosted the second Meeting of Tax Agents.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 1.0 per cent, in the eurozone, Frankfurt won 0.9 per cent and Paris climbed 0.8 per cent.
Spot gold was up 0.8% at $2,033.86 per ounce by 0655 GMT, after hitting a record high of $2,036.49. US gold futures rose 1.4% to $2,049.30.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.26 per cent, or 58.81 points, to end at 22,514.85, while the broader Topix index inched down 0.04 per cent, or 0.55 points, to 1,554.71.
Brent crude was up by 31 cents, or 0.7%, at $44.74 a barrel by 0713 GMT. The contract rose 0.6% on Wednesday to its highest close since March 6. West Texas Intermediate oil was up by 26 cents, or 0.6%, at $41.96 a barrel. The contract ended Tuesday trading 1.7% higher, its highest close since late July.