EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has accepted that the deadline has passed for Apple to place potentially billions of euro in an escrow account ahead the Government's appeal over the ruling that Apple had enjoyed an illegal €13bn tax concession.

In an interview with RTÉ News, her first since the full Apple decision was published in December, Ms Vestager also strongly denied that the commission had "interfered" in Ireland's national tax sovereignty.

Following the decision last August, the Revenue Commissioners were required to produce their own figure as to how much alleged unpaid tax Apple should have paid, based on the European Commission's findings.

As part of the process, Apple would then place the amount in an escrow account pending two separate appeals by the company and the Government to the European Court of Justice.

Speaking ahead of an appearance before the Dáil Finance Committee, Ms Vestager told RTÉ News: "The Irish authorities are working on the recovery, how to do this.

"Obviously it's a very complex thing because it's a lot of money. The deadline has been passed, but that's not the most important thing.

"Of course the important thing for us is to have a constructive cooperation with the Irish authorities in order eventually to get it done.

"It is for the Irish to do the fine calculations because they have all the numbers in every detail and it's up to them to do it."

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said: "We are continuing to make progress on the recovery from Apple with the full co-operation of the company and the EU Commission.

"The commission are satisfied with the progress we are making. We have committed to complying with the decision and we fully intend doing that."

Last August, the commission found that Ireland had granted Apple a tax benefit to the tune of €13bn which, the Commission ruled, amounted to illegal state aid under EU rules.

Both the Government and Apple have vigorously contested the finding, and have appealed.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met with Apple CEO Tim Cook in California last December

It is understood Apple has filed a 50-page rebuttal as part of its appeal.

Observers expect the appeals process to last several years.

Ms Vestager also kept open the possibility that there could be further investigations into so-called tax rulings provided to multinational companies in Ireland, although she downplayed any suggestion that this was "news".

Last October, Taoiseach Enda Kenny angrily denied that there were any further potential probes into Irish tax rulings, following an Irish Times report that the commission were still looking at some 300 cases where companies had been given tax rulings - or letters of comfort - by the Revenue Commissioners.

When asked if there were categorically no further cases, Ms Vestager said there were "no red lights flashing" and that the commission was "not on the brink of opening new cases".

She told RTÉ News: "So far we have no concerns. But of course we're asking questions, especially if the public and the media start asking questions and we feel that there is a need to do a follow up just to make sure.

"We work with such relative slow pace that if anything is going to happen in the future and new cases opened, then you will know in due course.

"I can say, so far so good. We are not on the brink of opening new cases. 

"But I don't know what will happen in the future, because if the analysis shows that there are reasons to be concerned then maybe my successor will find that it's necessary to do something about it, that is why it's up to the member states to bring order in their own house, and that goes for every member state."

Ms Vestager emphatically rejected the Government's accusation on 19 December that the Commission had exceeded its powers and interfered in Ireland's national sovereignty with the Apple decision.

When the claim was put to her, she said: "A very strong no. We are not a tax authority. We do not interfere with national prerogatives when it comes to taxation, it's purely and solely [a competence of] the member state.

"What we do is state aid control and that has been done by the commission for, I think now six decades in order to make sure that we have a level playing field so that you compete on the quality of your products, the prices that you can show your customers, the service you attach to it, that's what we do.

"Taxation, that's for member state national authorities."

Ms Vestager defended the manner in which the commission announced last August's shock ruling, which took the Government by surprise in terms of the scale of the tax liability.

"It's difficult to say how [the Government] experienced the preparation of the decision.

"We cannot tell the fine detail or the amounts, we never do that to anyone before a decision is taken.

"We did our best to make sure that we knew that this is a serious case and the amount of recovery will be big.

"For equal treatment reasons we never tell the exact sums or what will be exactly in the decision.

"I think they might have known slightly before but not very long before."

Apple has challenged the ruling on several grounds, primarily disputing the notion that the company's tax liability rested in Ireland given that the vast majority of decisions, innovation and R&D for Apple products are concentrated in America, with the actual manufacturing occurring mostly in China.

In its ruling, the Commission alleged that the Irish authorities granted tax rulings to two Apple subsidiaries, based in Ireland but not tax-resident there, which resulted in the company paying minuscule amounts of tax on billions of euro in sales of Apple products to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Case prepared on the facts not hostility, Vestager says

Ms Vestager was asked if she was concerned about negative fallout from the Apple decision in terms of Irish public opinion towards the EU once the Brexit negotiations got under way.

The commissioner said: "The important thing here is to see that there is no hostility on our side.

"Even if we had emotions, the [European] Court [of Justice] will hear nothing of it. Of course, I knew that there was a big risk that this would be appealed, and therefore the case is prepared on the facts, the evidence, the case law, because that is all that the court will hear of.

"I think that's important. It is also important that the [Brexit] negotiator and his team, of course the European negotiator, they are also negotiating on behalf of Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Greece.

"That is the balancing which we need to make sure is upheld. There are European issues, but there is also room for member states, as different as we are."

She rejected criticism that the EU was targeting US multinationals using state aid rules, insisting that European countries had been investigated as well as US ones.

"What we do here is to make sure that companies doing business in Europe follow European rules. You see a number of American companies, you see a number of European companies as well.

"In the Belgian [state aid investigation] more than half the companies were European. Fiat is European.

"What it boils down to is the very fundamental. If you do business in Europe, follow the rules that we agreed on as Europeans."

Vestager goes before Oireachtas Finance Committee

Addressing the Oireachtas Finance Committee this afternoon, Ms Vestager said the European Commission is not and does not want to be the Irish tax authority. 

She annoyed that the commission was seeking to "take control of taxation" when she was asked by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkin. 

Ms Vestager said the Commission is not a tax authority for Ireland, for Europe; nor is it an international tax authority. 

She said the commission is a European state aid controller. 

Her meeting with the committee ran overtime by one hour at the request of the commissioner, to ensure there was clarity in her replies to members. 

She said she has not ruled out claims by other EU countries to the €13bn Ireland has been ordered to collect in Apple back taxes.

She said if a tax authority in a member state goes into the numbers regarding Apple and how their profits are generated and recorded, they would have to do the work themselves.

A number of questions from members of the committee centred on other EU countries claiming a share of the €13bn.

Responding to Labour Deputy Sean Sherlock, Ms Vestager said perhaps some national tax authorities will take an interest in how Apple's tax has developed.

"What we are talking about is ten years of unpaid taxes," she said, "I don't know if national tax authorities will pick this up, that remains to be seen".  

The hearing has now concluded.