The Irish government narrowly avoided a split on Friday (2 September), before agreeing to appeal a European Commission ruling that ordered tech-giant Apple to pay the Irish state €13 billion, plus interest, in unpaid taxes.
The three independent MPs in Ireland’s ruling coalition earlier in the week were said to have “balked” at the idea of appealing a ruling that, on the face of it, allowed Ireland to pour up to €19 billion into its exchequer, EUObserver reports.
But in the end, during Friday’s “intense” 30-minute cabinet meeting and after three days of internal strife, an agreement was clinched to order the attorney general to initiate proceedings at the European Court of Justice.
In exchange for the independents’ support, ministers from the Fine Gael party, the centre-right senior coalition partner, agreed to a “full review” of tax arrangements for multinationals in Ireland to be carried out by an outside expert .
The deal came despite the fact that a similar review was already carried out two years ago.
It also came despite concerns, a senior cabinet source told EUobserver on condition of anonymity, that the review “risked” giving the impression that Ireland had other tax secrets to hide.
In addition, the Irish Parliament has been recalled for a full debate next Wednesday (7 September).
Education minister Katherine Zappone (independent) said Ireland should enter a “robust era of tax justice”, while the main opposition party, the nationalist Sinn Fein, is calling for full disclosure of the facts and figures in the Apple case.
Whatever the debate may bring, the government has promised foreign investors that its low 12.5-percent corporate tax rate, as well as other incentives, such as tax credits for R&D operations, remained “sacrosanct”.
The transport minister, Shane Ross (independent), also said corporations should be “seen to be paying their fair share”, but added that multinationals are “vital” for creating jobs.
Both the Irish government and Apple have denied the commission’s findings, and were quick to attack competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager when she issued her decision earlier this week.
Finance minister Michael Noonan described the retrospective nature of the commission’s investigation as “bizarre and outrageous”.