Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Report launched its case against a controversial EU tax ruling Tuesday, arguing the decision "defies common sense" as it seeks to avoid paying around $14 billion in fines and penalties.
Apple opened arguments against the 2016 ruling in Europe's General Court in Luxembourg Tuesday in a move it hopes will overturn a European Commission decision from three years ago that considered Ireland's low-tax rate on the tech giant as an unfair form of state aid. Apple was ordered to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland, covering a ten year period beginning in 2004. Ireland called the ruling "an intrusion on its sovereignty", and lawmakers voted to reject the payment, even as it upper limit was estimated at around 10% of 2014 GDP.
"The Commission contends that essentially all of Apple's profits from all of its sales outside the Americas must be attributed to two branches in Ireland," Apple's lawyer, Daniel Beard argued, according to reporting from Reuters. "As Ireland has already emphasised, it undermines legal certainty if state aid measures are used to retrofit changes to national law ... and legal certainty is a key principle of EU law; one upon which businesses depend."
Apple shares were marked 0.1% lower in pre-market trading in New York Tuesday to indicate an opening bell price of $219.73 each.
The EU's Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, as gone after various aggressive tax deals in that past, although with mixed success: earlier this year, the General Court overruled the Executive, deeming a Belgian tax deal that benefited BP plc BP, as well as several other energy and chemicals companies, should not be considered state aid.
Apple is likely to take its tax case all the way to the region's highest ruling body, the European Court of Justice, if its current argument fails, but that won't remove it from the crosshairs of the Commissions competition office.
Vestager, the former Danish lawmaker who has led antitrust actions against Facebook (FB) - Get Report and Google (GOOGL) - Get Report and is currently taking a "very close look" at Amazon Inc.'s (AMZN) - Get Report European business practices, will stay on as Commissioner under new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who assumes office on November 1.
Vestager's most recent thorn in the side of U.S. tech came earlier this spring, when her office opened an anti-trust probe into the chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO) - Get Report , accusing it of preventing rivals from competing in TV and modem chip markets.
The Commission also said it would impose interim measures on Broadcom during the investigation, but those provisions would not preclude the continued sale of the company's products.
Last year, Vestager fined Alphabet, the parent of internet search giant Google, a record $5 billion following a lengthy investigation into contracts that tie makers of android-operated smartphones to the exclusive sale of its apps.
"She hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I've ever met," President Donald Trump told Fox Business earlier this spring. "What she does to our country. She's suing all our companies. We should be suing Google and Facebook . . . They're suing Apple. They're suing everybody."