European Union appeals in $15 billion tax battle with Apple

The European Union is taking its fight to get $15 billion in back taxes from Apple to the continent’s highest court, officials said Friday.

The European Commission said it will appeal a July ruling from the EU’s General Court that found insufficient evidence that Apple got unfair tax breaks from the Irish government.

The commission will bring the case to the European Court of Justice because the lower court’s ruling both raised important legal issues and contained “a number of errors of law,” competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

“Making sure that all companies, big and small, pay their fair share of tax remains a top priority for the commission,” Vestager said in a statement. “… If member states give certain multinational companies tax advantages not available to their rivals, this harms fair competition in the European Union in breach of state aid rules.”

The July ruling was a win for Apple, which the European Commission accused in 2016 of artificially reducing its tax burden with allegedly illegal benefits from Ireland, a nation known as a corporate tax haven.

Ireland had appealed the commission’s initial decision alongside Apple, saying it had always been clear it had not given special treatment to the tech giant.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the iPhone maker told CNBC the commission’s appeal “will not alter the factual conclusions of the General Court, which prove that we have always abided by the law in Ireland, as we do everywhere we operate.”

Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe noted the commission’s decision but said the government had not received a formal notice of the appeal. His office said the appeal process could take up to two years.

“When it is received, the government will need to take some time to consider, in detail, the legal grounds set out in the appeal and to consult with the government’s legal advisors, in responding to this appeal,” Donohoe said in a statement.

Apple’s stock price dipped 0.8 percent in premarket trading Friday to $107.35 as of 7 a.m.

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