Irish lawmakers late Wednesday approved the government's appeal of a European Commission ruling that said US technology giant Apple owed Ireland billion of dollars in back taxes.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny told the parliament, which was recalled early from summer recess, that the EU ruling on Apple's tax affairs in Ireland was "so profoundly wrong and damaging that it demands an immediate, clear and strong response."
The EU Commission last week accused Ireland of granting Apple illegal state aid worth 13 billion euros (14.5 billion dollars) and ordered Dublin to reclaim the tax money.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dail that the government's position has always been that the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no state aid was provided.
Noonan said the government was appealing the ruling to defend Ireland's tax system and to challenge the encroachment of EU state aid rules into member states' taxation policy.
The commission argues that "selective treatment" allowed Apple to pay a tax rate of 1 per cent on European Union profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014.
Taxation is a national competence in the 28-country European Union, but the commission believes it can intervene in the case of Apple because its tax arrangements in Ireland constitute state aid, an area it regulates.
The parliament needed to approve the government's appeal for legal action to go forward. The main opposition party, Fianna Fail, said it would support the government's motion to appeal, making the result a foregone conclusion.
Among the lawmakers opposing the appeal and calling for the money to be paid was opposition member Brid Smith, of the People Before Profit Alliance.
"This amount of money could build 89,000 houses," she said, noting the country's rising number of homeless.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook dismissed the commission's decision as "total political crap" in an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper.
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