As Margrethe Vestager ramps up another round of anti-trust actions against the biggest American tech behemoths, a European judge has just dealt her a major setback while simultaneously robbing Ireland of tens of billions of euros in corporate tax revenue.
According to the FT, EU judges have quashed a European Commission order demanding that Apple pay back €14.3 billion ($16.4 billion) in taxes to Ireland in a landmark ruling that deals a big blow to competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s efforts to crack down on low-tax regimes in the bloc.
In what was a heavily covered decision back in 2016 when it was first handed down, Vestager ruled in 2016 that Ireland must claim back €13 billion ($14.8 billion) in "illegal" tax incentives.
On Wednesday, the EU’s second highest court ruled that Vestager failed in “showing to the requisite legal standard” that Apple received a material economic advantage from the tax arrangement.
Rather than being a "sweetheart deal", Apple simply benefited from the laws as they were written, as the company argued back in 2016.
"The General Court considers that the commission did not prove, in its alternative line of reasoning, that the contested tax rulings were the result of discretion exercised by the Irish tax authorities."
The EU Commission had alleged that Ireland gave Apple a "preferential" deal that wasn't available to competitors which allowed the tech giant to pay less than 1% in corporate taxes.
The EU now has two months and 10 days to appeal, but the commission is likely to appeal and the case will be heard by the European Court of Justice, which will issue a final ruling on the case.