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Irish government recalculation of Apple's EU tax bill close to $14 billion estimate

The 13 billion euros ($14 billion) Apple is requested to pay Ireland as part a European Commission ruling over tax is likely to be an accurate figure, with the Irish finance minister advising the amount calculated by government officials is in a similar ballpark to the Commission's number.

Under the August ruling, the Commission ordered Apple to pay Ireland back taxes over "illegal tax benefits" granted by the country. These benefits involved extremely low tax rates, such as a rate of 0.005 percent in 2014 and 1 percent in 2003, as well as the claim the tax deals were "reverse engineered" to minimize Apple's overall bill.

While the European Commission's ruling was an estimate of 13 billion euros, plus interest, Reuters reports the Commission required Ireland to calculate the exact sum owed, and defined the methodology as part of the ruling. According to Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, reports Reuters, the final amount due may turn out to be quite close to what the Commission initially expected.

"So far my officials haven't indicated to me that it's going to seriously overrun the 13 (billion euros) or come seriously short of the 13, but there are other years to be assessed and so on," Noonan advised to a parliamentary committee.

Apple has already missed the deadline to return the owed taxes. Despite the delay, EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager has accepted the payment is still taking place, and is satisfied with the progress that has been made so far.

Noonan also told the committee that officials are still negotiating the terms of a ring-fenced escrow the Apple payments will be held, while appeals from both Apple and the Irish government process through the European legal system. The minister recently advised the government's appeal has been placed, which will head to a lower European court before another appeal from the losing party takes the case to the European Court of Justice.

Apple has also issued its appeal against the ruling, claiming the European Union "took unilateral action and changed the rules, disregarding decades of Irish tax law, U.S. tax law, as well as the global consensus on tax policy."

It is believed by Noonan that the the entire appeals process will take around four to five years to complete, after which the ring-fenced funds will be either absorbed by the Irish government or passed back to Apple, depending on the result.

According to Irish tax advisor Feargal O'Rourke, it is likely the European Court of Justice would overturn the Commission's tax order, provided the ruling isn't politicized. O'Rourke declared the Commission's decision a "land grab" that moves beyond its remit, and insisted that no-one who was familiar with the details of the case could believe the funds actually belong to Ireland.