Apple Among Firms In EU Tax Deal Probe
Tax deals involving Apple, Starbucks and are facing an EU probe over allegations they amounted to state aid worth billions of pounds.
The development follows a move by the EU’s competition authorities last year to gather information on corporate tax arrangements from several member states.
The European Commission said it had opened three in-depth investigations into tax decisions affecting Apple in Ireland, Starbucks in the Netherlands and Fiat Finance and Trade in Luxembourg.
The EU said its investigation followed reports some companies have received significant tax reductions through tax rulings by national tax authorities.
The focus was firmly on national laws and corporate tax rules rather than the firms themselves.
Apple’s annual report showed how its Irish structures helped it achieve an effective tax rate of just 3.7% on its non-US income last year.
A US Senate subcommittee investigation revealed that the iPhone and iPad maker had cut billions from its tax bill by declaring that companies registered in the Irish city of Cork were not tax residents of any country.
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the sub-committee, said the Apple structure represented “the Holy Grail of tax avoidance”.
Dublin reacted on Wednesday to news of the EU’s investigation by insisting it did not believe it broke any laws.
A Department of Finance spokesman said: “Ireland is confident that there is no state aid rule breach in this case and we will defend all aspects vigorously.”
A statement issued by Apple said: “We have received no selective treatment from Irish officials.
“Apple is subject to the same tax laws as scores of other international companies doing business in Ireland.
“Apple pays every euro of every tax that we owe”.
The wider tax avoidance debate, which has included the likes of Starbucks, Amazon and Google, has focused on amending national laws to ensure fair payment worldwide.
Starbucks, whose tax arrangements in the Netherlands form part of the probe, has been among high profile firms facing criticism for its UK tax bill.
In October and December 2012, key executives were grilled by MPs about its multinational corporate (MNC) arrangements.
Revelations about royalty, licensing and transfer pricing structures used by MNCs to minimise UK tax burden became a focus for the Public Accounts Committee.
The coffee chain confirmed in April it was to move its European headquarters to London from Amsterdam.
Starbucks said of the tax probe. “We comply with all relevant tax rules, laws, and OECD guidelines and we’re studying the Commission’s announcement.”