Apple agrees to pay $15B in back taxes to Ireland

Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Apple CEO Tim Cook (Apple)

Ireland reportedly will begin collecting more than $15 billion in back taxes from Apple in a move that could mark the end of a long-running dispute with the European Union.

But Apple doesn’t sound as if it’s ready to settle the matter entirely.

In August in 2016, the European Commission (EC) ordered Apple to pay as much as $14.5 billion in taxes and interest after ruling that a deal with the Irish government illegally granted undue tax benefits to the iPhone vendor. The figure is reportedly 40 times bigger than any previous demand under EU rules prohibiting countries from helping companies gain advantages over their competitors. The decision by the EC follows an investigation launched in June 2014.

But Apple executives later told Reuters that it plans to appeal the ruling at Europe’s second-highest court, saying the company had been targeted because of its success.

“Apple is not an outlier in any sense that matters to the law,” General Counsel Bruce Sewell said in a Reuters interview. “Apple is a convenient target because it generates lots of headlines.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, however, that Ireland will begin collecting the sum “as soon as early next year” once the two sides agree to the terms of an escrow fund for the money. Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he expected the repayments to begin in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Journal, once terms were hashed out over who would operate the account and manage the fund.

Apple indicated it didn’t see the arrangement as a settlement, though, and vowed to continue to fight to have the judgment overturned.

“We have a dedicated team working diligently and expeditiously with Ireland on the process the European Commission has mandated,” the iPhone vendor said in a statement to the Journal. “We remain confident the General Court of the EU will overturn the Commission’s decision once it has reviewed all the evidence.”