Crunch time for Apple in fight against $15 bln EU tax order

苹果对抗150亿美元欧盟税收命令的紧要关头

2020/07/15 08:01  Reuters

By Foo Yun Chee and Padraic Halpin

BRUSSELS/DUBLIN, July 15 (Reuters) - Apple&aposs clash with EU competition regulators comes to a head on Wednesday as Europe&aposs second-highest court rules on whether it has to pay 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in Irish back taxes, a key part of the EU&aposs crackdown against sweetheart tax deals.

In its order four years ago, the European Commission said Apple AAPL.O 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.

Defeat for European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager could weaken or delay pending cases against Ikea&aposs and Nike&aposs NKE.N deals with the Netherlands, as well as Huhtamaki&aposs HUH1V.HE 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 SBUX.O 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.

The Apple dispute is seen by some analysts as a lose-lose situation for Ireland, which has appealed against the Commission&aposs order alongside the iPhone maker.

While 14 billion euros - including interest - would go a long way to plugging the coronavirus-shaped hole in the state&aposs finances, Dublin is seeking to protect a low tax regime that has attracted 250,000 multinational employers.

If Ireland&aposs appeal succeeds, the government will be ridiculed by 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.

Should Ireland lose, the government will be castigated by the same politicians for launching the appeal. A ruling in favour of the Commission could also raise questions about the application of Ireland&aposs tax code at a sensitive time, when new global rules for taxing digital giants are being debated.

Defeat could also hurt Ireland&aposs ability to attract investment, although the promotional blitz undertaken after the Commission&aposs 2016 decision appears to have worked. The numbers employed by multinationals like Apple, Facebook and Google have grown by 25%, accounting for one in ten Irish workers.

For Apple, defeat would be a blow, but manageable given its cash holdings topped $190 billion at the end of its fiscal second quarter.

The cases are T-778/16 Ireland v Commission and T-892/16 Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe v Commission. The defeated side can appeal on points of law to the EU Court of Justice, Europe&aposs highest court.

($1 = 0.8793 euros)

作者:傅润哲和帕德拉克·哈尔平(Padraic Halpin)

路透布鲁塞尔/都柏林7月15日电-苹果(Apple&APOSS)周三与欧盟竞争监管机构的冲突达到白热化,因为欧洲和APOSS第二高法院就其是否必须向爱尔兰补缴130亿欧元(150亿美元)的税款做出裁决,这是欧盟和APOSS打击甜蜜税收协议的关键部分.

在四年前的命令中,欧盟委员会表示,通过爱尔兰的两项税收裁决,苹果公司受益于非法的国家援助,这两项裁决人为地将苹果公司的税负降低了20多年-2014年降至0.005%。

欧盟竞争事务专员玛格丽特·维斯特格(Margrethe Vestager)的失败可能会削弱或推迟针对宜家(Ikea&aposs)和耐克(Nike&aposs)与荷兰达成的NKE.N交易,以及Huhtamaki&aposs HUH1V.HE与卢森堡达成的协议的未决案件。

维斯特格将税收打击作为其任期内的核心内容,去年同一法院推翻了她要求星巴克SBUX.O补缴高达3000万欧元的荷兰税款的要求。在另一起案件中,法院还驳回了她对比利时针对39家跨国公司的税收计划的裁决。

一些分析师认为,苹果纠纷对爱尔兰来说是一个双输的局面,爱尔兰已经与这家iPhone制造商一起对欧盟委员会和苹果公司的命令提出上诉。

虽然140亿欧元-包括利息-将在很大程度上堵塞国家和APSS财务中的冠状病毒漏洞,但都柏林正在寻求保护吸引了25万名跨国雇主的低税收制度。

如果爱尔兰和aposs上诉成功,政府将会因为没有接受这笔现金而受到反对党的嘲笑,因为这笔钱至少可以弥补今年预算赤字的一半,预计今年将飙升至gdp的10%。

如果爱尔兰败诉,政府将因发起上诉而受到同样的政客的严厉批评。在一个敏感的时刻,有利于欧盟委员会的裁决也可能引发对爱尔兰&阿波斯税法应用的质疑,因为全球正在就向数字巨头征税的新规则展开辩论。

失败也可能损害爱尔兰和APOSS吸引投资的能力,尽管在欧盟委员会和APOSS 2016年的决定之后进行的推广闪电战似乎奏效了。像苹果、脸书和谷歌这样的跨国公司雇佣的人数增长了25%,占爱尔兰工人总数的十分之一。

对苹果来说,失败将是一个打击,但考虑到其现金持有量在第二财季末超过1900亿美元,这是可控的。

这些案件是T-778/16爱尔兰诉委员会和T-892/16苹果国际销售和苹果运营欧洲诉委员会。败诉方可以就法律问题向欧盟法院、欧洲法院和最高法院提出上诉。

(1美元=0.8793欧元)

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