Apple wins $15 billion EU court appeal over Irish tax scheme

Apple wins $15 billion EU court appeal over Irish tax scheme
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A European appeals court ruled that Apple does not have to pay a $15 billion tax bill levied by the European Commission which had accused the tech giant of abusing Irish tax laws.

The European General Court found European Commission officials had not demonstrated that Apple had gained an unfair competitive advantage through the Irish tax laws. Following a lengthy investigation, the commission had previously issued a finding that Apple had massively reduced its tax bills by overstating the amount of its business in Ireland where it received low tax rates and ordered the company to reimburse Irish authorities up to $15 billion.

The decision represents a big win for Apple, which had always denied it had done anything wrong. It’s also a setback for European leaders who have crafted an image for policing tech companies. The commission must now decide whether to appeal the ruling to the highest court, the European Court of Justice.

Technically, the original ruling by the commission four years ago was against the Irish government for creating tax breaks that gave the country an unfair economic advantage over other European nations. The EC ordered Ireland to send Apple a tax bill for $15 billion.

Ireland appealed that decision, though that put them in a politically awkward spot of having to fight against a decision that would see $15 billion land in its national treasury. But Irish politicians appealed because they wanted to protect the country’s status as a low-tax haven that has attracted such companies as Facebook, Google, and Apple.

Given Apple’s massive cash haul each quarter, the company would have been fine financially no matter the final decision and already had placed the money in an escrow account.

Still, the accusation that it had benefited from a fraudulent tax scheme tarnished the reputation of a company that sees itself at squeaky clean.