It hasn't been a good week for Ireland.

The discourse in Britain about Irish concerns over the border on the island of Ireland after Brexit has deteriorated rapidly and US President Donald Trump had attacked American companies for locating operations here.

It comes as Ireland is being increasingly associated with complex tax avoidance by multinationals.

This week Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told the Irish Times that the country was part of a "fiscal paradise" used by companies to "park money and avoid paying taxes".

In the background is another row which resurfaced this week and has the potential to lead to worsening relations with both Europe and Apple.

The Department of Finance said it would be next year before €13bn in back tax would be collected from the iPhone maker and stopped short of naming a specific date.

To rewind a little, last year the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager issued a determination that Apple owed the gargantuan sum of money to Ireland and set a deadline of January of this year for the funds to be transferred.

Ireland is challenging the judgement but has to collect the money in the meantime. 


It failed the meet the January deadline. In October Ms Vestager threw down the gauntlet and said the Commission is taking Ireland to the European Court of Justice because of the delay.

There are practical difficulties about managing the €13bn to ensure that it can be returned to Apple with interest in an era of negligible returns if the Government wins its case against Ms Vestager’s determination. 

There have been protracted negotiations between the company and Ireland about how the money should be handled.

But that problem should have been overcome long before now.

Now Irish authorities believe Apple is dragging its heels and frustration has become clear in the past few weeks.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "We don’t want to be in a situation where the Irish Government has to take Apple to court because the Commission is taking the Irish Government to court."

He added: "I think that message is understood." 

Apple confirmed in 2013 in the US Senate the two of its subsidiaries in Ireland paid 2% tax.

If Mr Varadkar wants to prevent further damage to Ireland’s international reputation he will need to turn up the heat on Apple to collect the money. That time has come.

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