An Apple Inc. logo is displayed on a screen during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Apple to Fight EU Irish Tax Case Without U.S. Support Role

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. lost a bid to help Apple Inc.’s court fight against the European Union’s order to pay Ireland a record 13 billion euros ($15.3 billion) in unpaid taxes.

The EU’s highest court rejected the U.S. request, its press service said on Twitter on Thursday. A lower court in December also dismissed the request, saying the American government failed to show it had a direct interest in the result of the state-aid case.

The European Commission in August 2016 ordered Ireland to recoup the record sum plus interest, saying the world’s richest company was handed an unfair fiscal advantage. Last year, the U.S. asked the EU court for permission to intervene in Apple’s case, arguing that the outcome of the case could affect its economic situation due to the tax credits the iPhone maker could claim as a result of paying more taxes in Ireland.

The EU’s Apple order has reverberated across the Atlantic, triggering criticism from the U.S. Treasury that the EU was making itself a "supra-national tax authority" that could threaten global tax reform efforts.

The U.S. is disappointed in the decision to deny its participation in litigation concerning the tax treatment of U.S. companies, a DOJ official said. The U.S. has a clear and direct interest in the treatment of Apple’s offshore profits, as confirmed in the tax legislation enacted within days of the lower court’s order denying intervention, the official said.

The text of the court’s decision wasn’t immediately available. A spokesman for Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Appeals over tax cases have been piling up at the EU’s courts since 2015, when the commission issued its first orders against Luxembourg and the Netherlands to recoup unpaid taxes from a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV unit and Starbucks Corp. respectively.

The EU has also ordered Luxembourg to recover 250 million euros over its fiscal arrangements for Inc. and Belgium to get back as much as 700 million euros from 35 companies, including Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

At stake in all these decisions are billions of euros that multinational companies have squirreled away in tax havens, out of the reach of authorities in the countries where they make most of their sales. With no court hearings in sight yet, the EU has been continuing its investigations, including those into the tax affairs of McDonald’s Corp. and Engie SA in Luxembourg.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.