Apple Faces Setback in EU Tax Dispute

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) could be on the line for billions of euros in unpaid taxes to Ireland as the European Union’s long-standing tax dispute takes a new turn, prompted by a recent legal opinion from an adviser to the EU’s top court.

Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella recommended on Thursday that the lower court’s decision absolving the U.S. tech giant from repaying the 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) in taxes should be reconsidered, according to a press release summarizing his opinion.

The case, initiated in 2016, sparked outrage from Apple, with CEO Tim Cook dismissing it as “total political crap.” Former U.S. President Donald Trump criticized European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the driving force behind the campaign against special tax deals with big U.S. tech firms, labeling her the “tax lady” who “really hates the U.S.”

In 2020, the European Union’s General Court disagreed with the European Commission, accusing Apple of striking an illegal tax deal with Irish authorities for favorable rates. Pitruzzella recommended that the European Court of Justice should set aside the judgment and send the case back to the General Court for a fresh decision on the merits.

The press release stated that the General Court had made legal errors and needed to conduct a new assessment. While the ECJ’s opinions aren’t legally binding, they are often influential. The Court of Justice is expected to issue its legally binding decision next year.

Apple expressed gratitude for the court’s consideration, emphasizing that the General Court’s ruling indicated no selective advantage or state aid. The European Commission declined to comment. Its tech crackdown has expanded to include antitrust investigations into Apple’s payment platform and App Store, alongside heightened scrutiny under new digital rules designed to ensure fair competition.

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