MARGRETHE VESTAGER, THE EU’s Competition Commissioner, has said that Ireland is taking too long to recover the €13 billion in back-taxes owed by Apple.
The EU Commission ruled last year that the multinational tech giant owes Ireland the sum for profits that went untaxed for more than a decade.
Both Apple and Ireland are strongly reject the commission’s decision, and plan to challenge it through the EU’s courts. It is expected to take years before a final outcome is reached.
However, in the interim, Ireland is obliged to collect the funds. This money will then be held in a third-party holding account pending the outcome of the appeal against the decision.
If the appeal is successful, the money will be paid back to Apple. The original deadline for Ireland to collect the money was in early January.
Speaking to CNBC, Vestager said that Irish authorities are “taking too long” to get unpaid taxes from Apple.
She said that she hoped that officials would recover the money from the company ”very soon”.
Vestager also dismissed comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who suggested that the EU’s ruling could discourage the company from investing more in Europe in the future.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of that,” she said.
A statement from the EU Commission also said that it expects Ireland to make “material progress” soon to recover the money from Apple.
“If member states fail to meet their obligation, the commission may decide to refer them to the EU courts for failure to implement a state aid decision, in line with the EU Treaty,” it said.
In a statement, the Department of Finance said that it is in the process of recovering the money from the company.
“Despite (our) appeal, Ireland is required to comply with the binding articles of the commission’s final decision and ensure that the alleged aid is recovered from Apple,” it said.
“This involves the calculation of the exact amount of the aid and the process by which Apple are deprived of the sums, which the commission estimated to be €13 billion plus EU interest.”
It added: “Although the formal deadline has now passed, it is not unusual or uncommon for (EU) member states to require more time for recovery.
“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.”
Towards the end of January, when the initial deadline for collection had passed, Vestager conceded that the recovery process is a difficult for Irish authorities because of the huge sums of money involved.
“It’s a tricky thing to do because it’s a large sum so of course you have to figure out how to do that,” she said in January.
“It’s not as an escrow account in some of the other cases where it might be €25 or €30 million … and therefore I do respect that it’s a complicated matter and it may take a little more time.”