Wed, 12 Aug 2020

Apple Inc. will find out next week whether it won the first round of its bid to topple a record 13 billion-euro (R249bn) Irish tax bill imposed by European Union state-aid regulators.

The EU General Court in Luxembourg set July 15 for its decision. Any ruling is likely to be appealed one more time to the EU's top court.

The decision follows a two-day hearing in September where Apple told EU judges it was unfairly depicted as a tax dodger in a case that is the hallmark of antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager's five-year crackdown on US tech giants.

Apple and Ireland are battling the European Commission's 2016 order that a tax deal that allowed the company to channel sales through two Irish units violated EU state aid rules.

Apple declined to comment. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said on Wednesday that the tax decision was likely to be appealed either way.

A number of challenges have been piling up at the EU courts since regulators took aim at problematic examples of tax agreements, known as tax rulings, doled out to companies by member countries.

The first set of court decisions on appeals over the EU tax crackdown showed that a win for the commission isn't assured. The same EU court that will rule in the Apple case annulled the commission's decision to order paybacks from Starbucks Corp. over its tax deals with the Netherlands, but upheld the EU's decision concerning Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's tax affairs in Luxembourg.

The Apple ruling comes the day before another high-stakes decision at the EU courts involving Facebook Inc. and other firms transferring data across the Atlantic.

At issue are so-called Standard Contractual Clauses, and parts of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, the trans-Atlantic data transfer pact adopted in 2016 to replace the Safe Harbor accord torpedoed by privacy activist Max Schrems.

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