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Apple's Tim Cook meets with EU antitrust chief ahead of decision on Irish taxes

Earlier on Thursday Apple CEO Tim Cook attended a private meeting in Brussels with Margrethe Vestager, the head of the European Commission's antitrust efforts, presumably in an attempt to diminish the chances of owing billions in back taxes because of the company's Irish tax deals.

The meeting's existence was confirmed by both Apple and the Commission, Bloomberg reported. Neither party was willing to share the topic of discussion.

The Commission is however in the middle of investigating whether the Irish government extended illegal state aid to Apple in the form of tax deals. Apple is known to have exploited Irish loopholes for years to pay extremely low rates on international revenue, possibly as small as 1.8 percent. Ireland's normal corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent.

A ruling could be issued as soon as March, but the investigation is already on a delayed schedule and information gathering is still said to be ongoing.

The matter also has high stakes, as Apple could theoretically owe over $8 billion, and Irish political parties are split on the matter. While Prime Minister Enda Kenny has vigorously denied that Ireland is a tax haven, and promised to fight any EU ruling against the country, the opposition Sinn Fein party has said it would be willing to pursue money owed by Apple.

EU aid rulings have already been issued against companies like Fiat and Starbucks and countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which may not bode well for Apple and Ireland.