By Valentina Pop and Sam Schechner 

Apple Inc. won a major battle with the European Union, when the bloc's second-highest court on Wednesday sided with the U.S. company over a EUR13 billion ($14.8 billion) tax bill that EU antitrust officials had said the company owed to Ireland.

The case stems from a 2016 decision by the European Commission, the bloc's top antitrust enforcer, which said that Ireland must be paid EUR13 billion in tax breaks from between 2003 and 2014, money the commission said constituted an illegal subsidy under the bloc's strict state-aid rules.

But in its judgement on Wednesday, the General Court said it annulled the commission's decision because it had failed to meet the legal standards in showing that Apple was granted an illegal subsidy.

The decision earned then-competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager the nickname "tax lady" from President Trump. Ms. Vestager is still in charge of the bloc's competition law enforcement and recently launched two antitrust probes into Apple. She is now also responsible for tech regulation and is considering imposing a digital tax on tech giants.

The European Commission can still challenge this ruling at the bloc's top court, the European Court of Justice. In recent comments, Ms. Vestager however pointed to the limitations of state aid law in enforcing what she describes as "paying your fair share of tax."

In a September hearing at the General Court, Apple lawyers said the commission's decision "defied reality and common sense" and

Write to Valentina Pop at valentina.pop@wsj.com and Sam Schechner at sam.schechner@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 15, 2020 05:32 ET (09:32 GMT)

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