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Decision in EU probe of Apple's Irish tax deals expected in September or October

Following a meeting with European Commission chief Margrethe Vestager on Tuesday, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he expects the EU antitrust regulator to reach a decision in its investigation into Apple's Ireland tax agreements by September or October.

Noonan, who previously guessed the ruling would come sometime this fall, announced the refined timeline estimate during a press conference on Wednesday, reports Reuters.

"Commissioner Vestager indicated to me that there wouldn't be a decision in July but there would probably be a decision early in the autumn. My expectation is September or early October," Noonan said. "I didn't discuss the potential decision but we did discuss the presentation of the decision. I have no indication of what way the decision will go or what the implications of the decision will be."

The Commission has been investigating Apple's tax structure in Ireland for the past two years, questioning whether deals struck in 1991 and 2007 amount to unfair state aid. Ireland entered into agreements offering low tax rates to Apple subsidiaries Apple Operations International, Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe reportedly in exchange for local job generation. Apple funnels overseas revenue through the Irish properties, including its European headquarters in Cork, as part of the infamous "Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich" tax avoidance strategy, which according to some estimates saves the company some $9 billion per year.

A preliminary report in 2014 found Ireland's tax favors fell on the wrong side of EU policy, though the tedious process of evidence gathering has delayed a final ruling.

For its part, Apple contends its Irish operations are above board. In January, Apple CFO Luca Maestri went on record as saying a finding of non-culpability would be the only fair outcome to the Commission's probe. That same month, CEO Tim Cook met with Vestager in a closed-door meeting presumed to be in relation to the ongoing investigation.

In an interesting wrinkle, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew recently advocated against the EU's string of antitrust investigations into American corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, claiming the companies were being unjustly targeted. Lew reportedly implored Vestager not to collect back taxes if the Commission finds Apple in the wrong, though whether the antitrust chief was receptive to the call for leniency is unknown.