An adviser to the European Union’s top court stated on Thursday that the EU tribunal made legal errors when ruling in favor of Apple in a EUR 13 billion tax order case. This recommendation for a review could pose a setback for the iPhone maker. The case was part of the EU’s antitrust crackdown against deals between multinationals and EU countries perceived as unfair state aid.
In 2016, the European Commission made a decision asserting that Apple benefited from two Irish tax rulings for over two decades, artificially reducing its tax burden. The EU’s General Court upheld Apple’s challenge in 2020, stating that regulators hadn’t met the legal standard to prove an unfair advantage.
However, adviser Giovanni Pitruzzella at the EU Court of Justice disagreed, suggesting that the General Court ruling be set aside and the case be referred back for a new assessment. He highlighted errors in law and a failure to assess certain methodological errors, according to the Commission’s decision.
The CJEU will make a ruling in the coming months, and it often follows such recommendations. Ireland, which has maintained it provided no state aid to Apple, emphasized that this opinion is non-binding. Apple, while appreciating the court’s ongoing consideration, believes the General Court’s ruling, stating no selective advantage or state aid to Apple, should be upheld.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has faced mixed outcomes in defending tax cases, with some victories and losses in court. Vestager is currently involved in investigations into companies like Inter IKEA, Nike, and Huhtamaki regarding their tax arrangements.