Corporations paying their fair share of taxes is a highly debated political issue, but that is not stopping the European Commission from issuing notices to both Apple and Amazon with large tax bills. Google was fined $2.7 billion earlier this year by the EC for antitrust violations. Now, the EC is demanding Apple pay $15 billion in Ireland and that Amazon hands over $294 million in Luxembourg.
According to the European Commission, Amazon and Apple have received illegal tax benefits through their respective countries of operation. What is unusual about this attempt at collecting of taxes is that the countries themselves are being billed, not Apple or Amazon directly. Ireland does not want to lose Apple's investments into renewable energy data centers that began in 2015. Amazon received tax breaks that the EC considers illegal.
An Amazon spokesperson refutes, "We believe that Amazon did not receive any special treatment from Luxembourg and that we paid tax in full accordance with both Luxembourg and international tax law." To which the EC responded, "Member States cannot give selective tax benefits to multinational groups that are not available to others."
One of the problems with this case is that Amazon and Apple may not have actually violated any state or local laws. It is possible that the countries each tech company has made investments into offered tax benefits that were not permissible under European law. Whether the companies will end up paying for possible government mistakes remains to be seen. The cases are being turned over to EU courts for review.