Apple must pay up to $14.5B in back taxes to Ireland

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In a letter addressed to customers and published Tuesday, Apple says the EU’s decision will have “serious, wide-reaching implications.”

“In Ireland and in every country where we operate, Apple follows the law and we pay all the taxes we owe,” read an excerpt of Apple’s letter.

Irish authorities have vowed to fight the finding, and the U.S. government has disputed the EU’s position.

“Ireland’s position remains that the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no state aid was provided,” the Irish government said in a statement. “Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers.”

Apple and other major U.S. firms including Google and Microsoft hold stockpiles of what’s known as indefinitely reinvested foreign earnings, or revenue not subject to U.S. corporate income tax, outside the U.S. The 10 firms with the largest holdings collectively have $724 billion in this revenue outside the U.S., a USA TODAY report found.

The EU has been investigating possible tax avoidance by multinational firms since June 2014. Under current EU rules, member countries cannot give aid that grants companies or sectors an unfair advantage.

A ruling by the European Commission in October that a tax arrangement between Starbucks and the Netherlands was illegal is currently on appeal to the EU General Court, as is a similar ruling against Fiat in Luxembourg. An EU investigation into tax agreements between Amazon and Luxembourg is still awaiting a final decision.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department says the agency is “disappointed” with the EU’s ruling. “The Commission’s actions could threaten to undermine foreign investment, the business climate in Europe, and the important spirit of economic partnership between the U.S. and the EU,” reads the Treasury statement.

The European island offers the lure of minimal regulation and significantly lower corporate tax rates (12.5% vs. 35% in the U.S.), a major reason why top U.S. tech companies — including Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter and eBay — have corporate facilities in Ireland, where they employ thousands.

Apple employs about 5,500 workers in Cork, Ireland, where it is the largest private sector employer.

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