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Irish finance minister decries EU's demand for $15B+ in Apple back taxes, says it's not Ireland's job

In a German interview this week, Ireland's finance minister attacked the European Commission's ruling calling for the collection of $15 billion in back taxes (plus interest) from Apple, saying it was both unjustified and outside Ireland's responsibility.

"We are not the global tax collector for everybody else," Paschal Donohoe remarked to Frankfurter Allgemeine, quoted by Reuters. He also reiterated the Irish government's main defense, claiming that the tax breaks extended to Apple were available to other companies as well, and broke neither Irish nor European Union laws. Under E.U. regulations, extending favors to some companies but not others can constitute illegal state aid.

Despite its protests, the Irish government is supposedly finalizing an arrangement to collect up to $17.7 billion from Apple and hold it in escrow, pending an appeal with the Commission. The government was originally required to collect the money by Jan. 3, but has been slow to respond, despite a Commission warning in May that it could be brought to court.

In August 2016 the Commission ruled that Ireland had extended "illegal tax benefits" to Apple, which it said were also "reverse engineered" to keep them low. Even though the company was funneling large sums of international revenue through its Irish subsidiaries, it's alleged to have paid 1 percent in taxes in 2003, and as little as 0.005 percent by 2014. Apple has repeatedly insisted that it follows the law in every country it operates in.

The Irish government has a strong incentive to keep Apple happy, since apart from the risk of losing what taxes it is paid, the company's European headquarters are located in Cork and a long-delayed data center may eventually be built near Athenry.