US seeks to intervene in Apple's court challenge of EU tax probe

3 July 2017 9:52am

29 June 2017 by Lewis Crofts and Matthew Newman

The US government wants to have its voice heard in Apple's court challenge of a 2016 decision that ordered the company to pay up to 13 billion euros in taxes to the Irish government, MLex has learned.

The court has yet to decide whether the US can appear in support of Apple.

Last August, the European Commission handed down a landmark decision, ruling that the Irish tax system had given Apple a selective advantage, helping the company to reduce its tax bill. Both Ireland and Apple challenged the decision before the EU's lower-tier General Court in Luxembourg.

Judicial procedure allows European governments or other interested parties to intervene in a case to provide their views. While European governments have an automatic right to be heard, companies and foreign states have to convince the EU court that they have a specific interest in the outcome of a case to be cleared to intervene.

The US government is understood to have made such a request. A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment.

Third parties can't intervene in the Irish government's appeal, so the US has had to weigh in on Apple's application. Other companies, organizations and EU states are also understood to have applied to intervene in the appeals.

The US has made no secret of its opposition to the EU's investigations of the tax treatment of American multinationals in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It believes the European Commission is disrespecting international tax norms and unfairly and retroactively applying a new interpretation of EU anti-subsidy law.

It is rare for foreign governments to seek an audience in the EU courts, but it was done in the 1980s when the Caribbean island nation Dominica took part in litigation over banana imports.

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