The Dublin government is being taken to the European Court of Justice over its refusal to collect 13 billion euro in taxes from US tech giant Apple.
Last year, the European Commission said that Ireland provided Apple with illegal state aid worth 13 billion euro over a period of about a decade. It ordered Ireland to recover this amount from the company.
The huge amount of money is roughly equivalent to a quarter of Ireland’s national budget. However over a year after the initial decision, Ireland has still not recovered the funds - which it was required to hold in an escrow account pending an appeal over the ruling.
Both Apple and the Irish government are fighting the EU decision. Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the action taken by the EU “sends out a terrible message” .
He said: “Next week, the Minister for Finance will deliver a Budget where he will tell the Irish people that resources are limited and the priority must be to balance the books.
“Yet, he has not put in the effort necessary to collect the billions owed by Apple to the Irish people even if that money can’t be accessed until after an appeal. The difference in approach won’t go unnoticed by taxpayers.
“Secondly, at a time when Ireland is facing diplomatic pressure on tax issues this failure sends out a message that the State is going to arrogantly ignore rulings it doesn’t like. The perception of Ireland as not playing fair on tax will only be bolstered by this government failure.
“The government need to get their act together and collect what is due. Then, more importantly, they need to drop their appeal before any more than the 3.6m euro already wasted in fees to lawyers to act against the interests of the Irish people is thrown away.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has published its alternative plans for the 26 County finances over the coming year. It would see the property tax abolished; 10,000 social houses built, and an extra 7% income tax on six-figure salaries above the first 100,000 euro.
Sinn Fein has said the proposals are about balancing the books in a way that is “radically different” from what the current Fine Gael-led minority government has set out. The party has also proposed spending over 1 billion euro more on the key areas of education, housing and health.
Under the proposals, the party would put an average of 244 euro back into the pockets of the middle class through the abolition of the property tax; they would radically reduce the cost of childcare between the ages of six months and three years which could save families up to 420 euro per month per child; and would cut third-level student contributions by 500 euro. It also plans a five euro weekly increase in social welfare payments for lone parents, among others.
Speaking at the launch of the document, Pearse Doherty pointed out to reporters that Fianna Fail, which claims to be the main opposition party, had not produced an alternative budget.
“As for Fianna Fail’s antics, like seriously, if this was Sinn Fein, you would be going through us with a horse and cart,” Mr Doherty said. The Donegal TD added that Fianna Fail is coming up with demands “every single day” but “they have the luxury of saying all these things and then they don’t produce an alternative budget.”