The EU is taking Ireland to court for failing to collect €13 billion from Apple in back taxes

The European Commission, the EU’s competition watchdog, is taking Ireland to court for failing to collect billions of euros from Apple in back taxes that were deemed to be illegal state aid. 

Vestager ordered Ireland to claw back up to €13 billion (£11.1 billion; $US14.5 billion) in back taxes from Apple last August. 

Europe’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday that she has decided to refer Ireland to the EU court for failing to implement her decision. 

“Ireland has to recover up to 13 billion euros in illegal State aid from Apple. However, more than one year after the Commission adopted this decision, Ireland has still not recovered the money, also not in part,” said Vestager in a statement. 

“We of course understand that recovery in certain cases may be more complex than in others, and we are always ready to assist. But Member States need to make sufficient progress to restore competition. That is why we have today decided to refer Ireland to the EU Court for failing to implement our decision.”

But Ireland and Apple missed the deadline in January. Vestager described the payback process as “complicated” in January, according to CNBC.

“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. 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.”

Apple was due to pay all the money into an escrow account, which is held by a third party, by January 3. 

The issue is complicated by the fact that Ireland doesn’t actually want Apple to pay the money, since it might discourage other multinationals from setting up shop there. Ireland and Apple have separate appeals pending against the European Commission’s findings.

The issue has also divided opinion in Ireland, with opposition MPs suggesting the government should use the windfall to repair the country’s economy.

Apple isn’t the only US tech giant being ordered to pay more taxes. 

On Wednesday, Vestager also ordered Amazon to pay millions in back taxes to Luxembourg. 

Additional reporting by Shona Ghosh. 

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