Irish parliament backs Apple on its tax bill appeal

Ireland's government won strong backing from parliament for its appeal against a €13B (about $14.5 billion) back tax bill the European Commission ordered it to collect from Apple, following 12 hours of debate on Wednesday.

Lawmakers said a failure to challenge the judgment would threaten future investment in Ireland by U.S. companies looking to sell in Europe, a central pillar of the country's decades-old growth strategy.

The European Commission, Europe’s anti-trust and consumer investigation agency, has claimed that Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have attracted investment and jobs by helping big companies avoid tax in other countries, including EU members. The commission suspects Ireland was too lenient in rulings it gave to Apple and which helped the company shield tens of billions of dollars in profit from taxation. At 12.5%, Ireland’s corporate tax rate beats the U.S. rate of 35%. However, participating companies don’t pay that 12.5% under the double Irish structure.

Tim Cook has branded the European Commission ruling “total political crap.” Apple’s CEO also suggested the "retroactive" tax bill was an attempt by the EU to grab taxes owed to the U.S. treasury and harmonize tax rates across the 28-nation bloc.