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Apple & Ireland's appeal of $16B EU tax ruling expected this fall, payments expected to start in May

Apple and the Irish government's appeal of a $16 billion European Commission ruling on back taxes should finally see action later this year, according to Ireland's finance minister.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

The case is likely to be heard in the fall, said Paschal Donohoe on Tuesday, quoted by Reuters. The minister didn't offer a precise date, or what legal strategy Ireland might adopt.

Apple is expected to start paying into the escrow fund in May, according to Politico. The Irish finance ministry said that it agreed on a "significant milestone" on Tuesday towards collecting the money, with the full amount expected by the end of the third calendar quarter of 2018.

In August 2016, the European Commission ordered Ireland to collect billions in back taxes, arguing that the country had extended preferential tax treatment to Apple. Under E.U. law, benefits offered to one company must be available to others —otherwise, it can constitute illegal state aid.

Apple has funneled large sums of international revenue through Ireland, using loopholes to pay minimal taxes. According to the Commission, Apple paid 1 percent on profits in 2003, and as little as 0.005 percent in 2014. The Irish government is even accused of reverse-engineering rules on the fly to ensure Apple got favorable rates, presumably worried that the company would divert jobs and investments without white glove treatment.

In testimony and elsewhere Apple and Ireland have denied any wrongdoing, claiming they followed all applicable laws. Nevertheless the latter has begun closing some loopholes, and the Commission has proposed new tax rules that would scatter Apple's payments around the E.U.

Some critics have accused Apple of violating the spirit of the law, and/or depriving government services of badly-needed revenue. In France the company has been met with repeated protests along those lines.