Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland will start collecting tax from Apple "within months" after the European Commission's ruling that the multinational giant availed of preferential tax treatment from the Government.

However, he said Ireland disputed the case and would be able to "prove" in the European Court of Justice that there was no special deal with Apple.

In August 2016, the European Commission's competition arm ordered Ireland to claw back €13 billion in what it regarded as unpaid taxes from Apple.

Ireland and Apple have since appealed the decision to the ECJ.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Varadkar said: "We will collect it. What we had to do in order to collect it was set up an escrow account.

"That's been established now and we anticipate collecting money in Q2 this year, so we will collect the money, but we are absolutely disputing the case."

He rejected any suggestion that the Government would wait until the court case concluded before collecting the money.

"The court case will take many years and we will be collecting the money," he told Bloomberg TV.

Mr Varadkar said the case had damaged Ireland's reputation.

"It hasn't been helpful," he said. "Ireland is a country that has a very clear tax policy, we've had it for a very long time now, the corporate tax rate is 12.5%, it's not going up, it's not going down, and unlike quite a lot of other countries there are very few get out clauses, exceptions or credits.

"Other countries have a higher tax rate on paper, but actually they collect less, and the OECD figures prove that.

"We're really one of the most transparent countries when it comes to tax."

The Taoiseach said there had been regular contact between Ireland and the Trump administration through the Irish embassy and at official level on the issue of corporate tax.

He added that he would meet and talk to US President Donald Trump about the issue when he travelled to Washington for St Patrick's Day celebrations in March.

The Taoiseach said Ireland would not be detrimentally affected by the US corporate tax rate cut.

"What we offer that other countries don't is that absolute certainty of four major political parties in Ireland that support that [tax] policy.

"When it comes to investors they can get that kind of certainty that they just couldn't get in countries where politics can swing so much left to right."