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Talking Europe

EU takes a bite out of Apple

Eve Irvine sits down with Margrethe Vestager, the woman who has angered the US and Ireland by punishing Apple.

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By slapping a record bill on the world's most profitable company, the EU's Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has caused outrage not just at Apple, but drawn criticism from US President Barack Obama and angered EU member Ireland, which does not want to collect the 13 billion euros the EU says it is owed. The Irish government has said it will appeal.

Eve Irvine asks Margrethe Vestager under what legal basis Ireland could collect the money and whether or not it actually did anything wrong.

The issue, Vestager says, is that "Ireland gave Apple two tax rulings to allow them to book the huge majority of their profits in a head office that only exists on paper – it has no employees, no premises, no real activities and that of course makes no economic justification for no employees in no offices making huge amounts of money."

However, she also added that Ireland's generous corporate tax rate of 12.5% was not in question. "The Irish tax code is protected by the treaty. It is of national competence."

A common harmonisation of EU taxes would, Ms Vestager said, go a long way to solving the problem of tax avoidance, but she admitted that she did not think this would ever happen.

A programme presented by Eve Irvine.

Produced by Isabelle Romero.

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