Advocate general of top European court backs EU in Apple tax case

9 Nov 2023

Image: © Prachana/

In his opinion, which is not legally binding, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice said the case needs a new decision following an appeal by the Commission.

The advocate general of Europe’s highest court has backed an EU ruling against Apple that requires the tech giant to pay more than €13bn in tax that the EU says is due to Ireland because of underpaid taxes between 2003 and 2014.

While not legally binding, the advocate general’s opinion is reflected in the court’s final ruling in an overwhelming majority of cases. The final ruling on the Apple tax case is due in six months.

In his opinion, advocate general of the EU Court of Justice Giovanni Pitruzzella said today (9 November) that a judgement made by the General Court that rejected the EU ruling three years ago should be “set aside” and the case be referred back to the General Court for a new decision.

According to Pitruzzella, the General Court committed a “series of errors” when it ruled the European Commission had not shown to the “requisite legal standard” that the intellectual property licences held by Apple’s international arms and related profits, generated by non-US sales, had to be attributed for tax purposes to the Irish branches.

“The advocate general is also of the view that the General Court failed to assess correctly the substance and consequences of certain methodological errors that, according to the Commission decision, vitiated the tax rulings,” reads a statement published by the EU Court of Justice.

After the General Court dismissed the EU ruling in 2020, the Commission – which views the case as illegal benefits granted by Ireland in 2016 – appealed the decision. The hearing of this EU appeal began in May this year.

Paul-John Loewenthal, a lawyer representing the EU, said at the hearing that the General Court “confused and conflated” several legal issues, which resulted in a “legally flawed judgement”.

However, Apple said EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s team made legal errors when they concluded the tech giant was given unfair tax aid from Ireland and demanded that the company repay the money.

“The essence of this case is simple, the Commission just got the facts wrong about what activities went on in Ireland,” Daniel Beard, a lawyer for Apple, said at the time.

In its fight against the appeal, the iPhone maker claimed that the multibillion-euro tax bill was not actually due in Ireland but rather is being paid elsewhere.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic