The European Union has accused U.S. tech giants Apple and Amazon of failing to pay corporate taxes totaling billions of dollars between the two—and now it wants both companies to pay up. Or rather, it wants the countries within which they operate to compel them to.
On Wednesday, the European Commission’s head competition regulator Margrethe Vestager announced two decisions by the bloc. First, it will order Luxembourg to recover an estimated 250 million euros ($293 million) in back taxes from Amazon over tax benefits the bloc deemed illegal. Second, it will take Ireland to court over its failure to collect billions of dollars in back taxes from Apple, as ordered by the bloc last year for similar reasons.
“I hope that both decisions are seen as a message that companies must pay their fair share of taxes, as the huge majority of companies do,” Vestager told reporters Wednesday, adding that “member states cannot give selective tax benefits to multinational groups that are not available to others.”
The decision to go after two of the world’s largest tech companies is hardly new—the EU has a long history of challenging Silicon Valley over issues ranging from Google’s manipulation of its search engine results to Facebook’s handling of user data. But this week’s decisions come amid a new push by European leaders to compel tech giants like Apple and Amazon to pay more taxes. At present, the amount these companies are taxed depends on the EU country in which they’re based, since the corporate tax rate is decided by each individual country. This allows for countries like Ireland and Luxembourg to boast lower tax rates than other EU member states like France and Germany. Proponents of changing this system, like French President Emmanuel Macron, argue that equalizing the corporate tax would amount to “tax justice.”