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Apple refuses Irish finance committee meeting for second time

Apple has declined a second invitation to a meeting with a finance committee in Ireland over the European Commission's $14 billion tax ruling, while Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan has accused the regulator of making a politically motivated decision.

A letter sent by Apple to the Oireachtas all-party Finance Committee advised the company was refusing to meet and answer questions about its European tax affairs, according to the Irish Examiner, but no reason was provided for the lack of attendance.

This is the second time Apple has rejected invitations to attend hearings. High-ranking Apple executives including CEO Tim Cook were asked in the first invitation to attend by committee chairman John McGuinness, but Apple refused citing advice from legal counsel to avoid conduct that could compromise the appeals process.

In the letter, Apple director for EMEIA government affairs Claire Thwaites reiterated the iPhone producer's stance on the ruling, that its tax affairs were above board, and attacked the European Commission's decision.

"Apple abides by the law and we pay all the taxes we owe wherever we do business," writes Thwaites. "We believe Apple is the largest corporate income taxpayer in Ireland and we never asked for, nor ever received, any special deal on the taxes we pay."

"We believe Apple is subject to exactly the same laws as every other business in the country, and Irish Revenue has confirmed many times that they provided no special deal."
"We believe Apple is subject to exactly the same laws as every other business in the country" - Apple director for EMEIA government affairs Claire Thwaites
The Commission's ruling is compared in the letter to changing the rules of a game halfway through a match, if it is allowed to stand. While taxes "play an important role in our society," Thwaites claims the European Commission "got it wrong," and that the "attack on Irish sovereignty is dangerous."

"If the Commission's opinion is allowed to stand, Apple would pay 40 percent of all the corporate income tax collected in Ireland - this is unprecedented and, far from leveling the playing field, selectively targets Apple." The company is still confident the ruling had "no basis in fact or law," and will be overturned on appeal.

The letter also highlighted investments made in Ireland, with approximately 6,000 people now employed by Apple in the country, with 93 percent classed as EU citizens, and 44 percent as non-Irish nationals. Overall operations in Ireland are claimed to support a total of 18,000 jobs, with Apple spending close to 200 million euro ($215.8 million) with Irish companies in the last year.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan advised to the Oireachtas Finance Committee the demand for Apple to repay the back taxes is an attempt by the Brussels-based regulator to extend the reach of its powers, according to the Irish Independent.

"There's a mix of tax law and politics being operated here," replied Noonan to the committee's questions. "I don't like to attribute motives to the Commission but there is a general move in the Commission as a whole to extend their power, to extend their remit, and I see this as part of that."

While the decision applies against Apple, Noonan suggests the political aspects of the move wasn't against the company, more one designed to isolate Ireland from the rest of Europe.

Noonan's comments echo similar sentiments from Irish tax advisor Feargal O'Rourke, who suggested the Commission's ruling was an ill-judged "land grab." The advisor to the government is also confident that Apple and Ireland can prevail in their appeals to the European Court of Justice, a process that could take up to five years to complete.