Europe's investigation of Apple's taxes actually began in the US

The European Union’s probe into Apple’s taxes was actually triggered by the US Senate.

That’s according to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, who spoke at a panel at Columbia University Wednesday.

Back in 2013, a US Senate committee said Apple had quietly negotiated a special corporate tax rate of 2% or less in Ireland. While they didn’t accuse Apple of breaking any laws, they had called out the “gimmicks” and “schemes” that allowed the company to get sweetheart deals.

Here is Vestager (emphasis ours):

“What’s been open is state aid control, what’s been secret is the number of the companies and the tax rulings.
And I think the irony of the transatlantic discussion is that the case in Europe only started because questions were being asked by the US Senate. Because this is where they take things forward, which allow questions to be asked and then eventually there might be a predecessor to opening the case.”

Vestager has launched similar tax-related
campaigns against multinationals such as Starbucks in the Netherlands and Amazon in Luxembourg.

She has been the target of criticism from across the Atlantic for ordering Ireland to claw back up to $14.7 billion in back taxes from Apple. The European Union has never ordered a company to pay this much before.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew wrote that the European Commission’s actions “threaten to erode America’s corporate tax base,” and “threatens to undermine the overall business climate in Europe,” in an op-ed at The Wall Street Journal.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Irish Independent newspaper that the ruling was “total political crap,” and suggested anti-US bias as one reason why Apple has been targeted. The iPhone maker, which is now the largest taxpayer in Ireland, said the ruling will have a profound and harmful effect on investment and job creation in Europe.

Ms. Vestager fired back, saying she’s just doing her job as per the EU treaties. She also cited that since 2000, only 2% of some 150 tax rulings made by the European Commission involved US companies, according to AFP.

Both Ireland and Apple said they intended to fight Europe’s decision.

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