Vestager was also in the Global Tax 50
Amazon is the latest company to be slapped with a bill from
Vestager for illegal state aid. The decision said the online
retailer had received approximately €250 million of
illegal tax benefits as a result of a tax ruling granted by
Luxembourg. The ruling had lowered Amazon's tax bill without
any valid justification, Vestager said, and allowed the company
to avoid paying taxes on three quarters of its profits.
€250 million isn't a whole lot of money compared to the
amounts in other cases Vestager has taken on –
famously, Apple was fined €13 billion in August 2016 for
allegedly receiving illegal tax benefits from Ireland. When the
money still wasn't recovered by October this year, Vestager's
patience wore thin and she took Ireland to court for moving too
"More than one year after the commission adopted this
decision, Ireland has still not recovered the money," Vestager
said. "We of course understand that recovery in certain cases
may be more complex than in others, and we are always ready to
assist. But member states need to make sufficient progress to
restore competition. That is why we have today decided to refer
Ireland to the EU Court for failing to implement our
Ireland replied by saying it had never accepted the
Commission's state aid decision, and said it was "extremely
disappointing" that the commission had decided to take
The commissioner's investigations into Apple, Starbucks and
McDonald's have given her a reputation of being on the warpath
with Silicon Valley, and many politicians and CEOs across the
Atlantic are weary of her singling out American companies.
Responding to these allegations the commissioner simply stated
that "it is irritating when American companies pay less in
taxes than European ones".
Vestager recently confirmed that the fight will go on. On
the question of future tax investigations, Vestager shook her
head and said: "I don't think we're done. We haven't changed
the full corporate culture yet."
The Dane has also been involved in a long-running state aid
dispute over corporate tax exemptions for ports, which began in
2013, and in August she told France and Belgium to get rid of
exemptions because they "distort the level playing field and
fair competition". While the countries must abolish the
exemptions by January 1 2018, they will not have to recover any
of the aid, the commissioner said.
Vestager has made it her mission to address tax avoidance by
multinationals through competition and state aid rules
– something that makes her stand out from
predecessors. With her term as competition commissioner running
until 2019, multinationals will be holding their breath for at
least two more years.