EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been defending the decision to order technology firm Apple to pay 13 billion euros in back tax to the Irish government.
She told a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg on Wednesday that the goal is for all companies to pay tax where they generate profits and for all information on that to be made public.
Vestager is also keen for the specifics of the Irish ruling to be known: “Once agreed by Ireland, we will publish our decision for all to see and I hope that this can happen as fast as possible. The published information may also be relevant to tax authorities in other jurisdictions.”
She added: “If the US tax authorities consider that Apple should have paid a higher contribution for research and development to its US parent it could lead to a higher taxable amount in the US.”
Dublin has called the ruling an attack on its business-friendly low-tax regime and is to appeal against it, as is Apple.
Vestager denied that saying the action applied only to two tax rulings which gave Apple a selective advantage.
“The party is over”
Most MEPs in the debate supported the ruling.
Spanish EPP MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain said: “We must say loud and clear that the party is over. Although multinationals create jobs they must pay taxes and we need a consolidated tax basis.”
Italian Five Star Movement MEP Marco Valli complained the EU had been talking about this for years without doing anything: “We need to have the guts to co-operate at international level and name and shame those who are against this type of agreement.”
Sean Kelly, an MEP with Fine Gael, the party which leads the ruling minority coalition in Ireland, criticised Vestager’s action, saying: “If it is morally wrong to defend the reputation of your country, what is morally right?”
He also said he takes issue with competition law being used to undermine the rights of a sovereign state.
Another Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes accused the competition commissioner of making decisions based on politics and not on law.
He said: “The European business environment will not be helped by reinventing competition rules.”
Hayes added: “The Commission now asks Ireland to collect this back tax while at the same time encouraging other member states to seek a portion of it – how it that logical?”