ECJ decision on illegal state aid in Spain could rattle Apple

21 Dec 2016

Should Apple be worried about an ECJ decision on illegal state aid in Spain? Image: Piotr Adamowicz/Shutterstock

In a move that could have ramifications for Apple and the Irish Government’s €13bn tax case, the European Court of Justice has found in favour of the European Commission in a case over illegal state aid involving Spain’s government.

Today, the European Court of Justice found in favour of the European Commission (EC) in a case involving tax concessions for a number of companies, including Santander Bank, Sandusa and Autogrill.

Earlier this week, the Irish Government, through the Department of Finance, formally objected to the EC’s decision in August to land Apple with a €13bn bill for unpaid taxes.

The full ruling of the EC said Ireland’s actions were tantamount to illegal state aid.

Apple is expected to issue its formal appeal against the ruling this week.

Europe has little patience for illegal state aid

In the Spanish case, the EC investigated complaints by a number of Spanish MEPs who argued that their government favoured companies that had a 5pc shareholding in a foreign company.

The EC decided that this represented illegal state aid and ordered the companies to repay the tax to the Spanish government.

However, while the decision may signal a frosty reception when the case eventually makes it to court in the coming years, the specifics are very different.

“It is a complete overstatement to say that the Irish appeal of the Apple decision is dependent on the outcome of the Santander and Autogrill decision of the European Court [of] Justice, or that today’s judgement is crucial for the Irish case,” a spokesman was quoted as saying in The Irish Times.

“The facts and the approach in the Santander and Autogrill cases are very different from those that have now been presented in the final decision in the Apple case,” the spokesman added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years