EU finance ministers line up behind tax ruling against Apple

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem urged Apple Saturday to “get ready” to pay up, as he and counterparts from other EU nations

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Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem urged Apple Saturday to “get ready” to pay up, as he and counterparts from other EU nations lined up behind a finding that the technology giant owes billions of euros due to more than a decade of improperly low taxation.

Apple’s bill could reach 19 billion euros ($21 billion) with interest, and both the company and Ireland, Apple’s European headquarters are appealing the European Commission ruling. But on the last day of an EU finance ministers’ meeting focused on ways to harmonize tax rules for international companies, Dijsselbloem told reporters that these “have an obligation to pay taxes in a fair way.”

“International tax loopholes are a thing of the past,” he said. Apple will have to pay back taxes both in the United States and Europe, he added, “so get ready to do that.”

Philip Hammond, his British counterpart, said the EU was keen “to make sure that international corporations pay the right tax at the right place.”
“That’s the fair way to do it, and we are going to make sure it happens,” Hammond said.

The Apple decision is only one of several faulting international companies for exploiting European exemptions to pay minimal taxes. Both Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler are contesting rulings handed down last year that they are each about 30 million euros ($33 million) in arrears.

While Ireland would reap a huge windfall from the extra money, it opposes the ruling because it has also benefited from the setup. Multinationals have such huge revenue that small countries can reap big gains even from low taxes, and
they also gain from the jobs created.
Other countries are expressing interest in any payout, however. Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said Austrian, Italian and France tax authorities are following the case closely with the option of posting claims, and a senior OECD official attending the meeting suggested they could have right to do so.

Angel Gurria, who heads the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, cited the EU Commission ruling on Apple and invited other nations that might have a claim “to come forward.”

Greece was also on the agenda of the two-day meeting. Ministers and senior EU officials in the Slovak capital urged Athens to speed up enactment of economic reforms so it can get its hands on the next batch of bailout cash before the end of October.

Greece, which depends on the money due from the bailout to stay afloat, has recently fallen short of reform commitments, stoking concerns of a flare-up in the country’s debt crisis. Because it hasn’t delivered on the reform promises it has made, it can’t yet get hold of the 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) due from this current phase of its bailout program.

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