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EU's ruling on Apple will be 'devastating' for European economy, says CFO

Top executives from Apple have voiced their violent disapproval of Tuesday's decision by the European Union to order Ireland to recover up to 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) in back taxes from the tech giant.

"Apple is the largest taxpayer in Ireland, Apple is the largest taxpayer in the U.S., Apple is the largest taxpayer in the world," Luca Maestri, the chief financial officer at Apple, said in a conference call following the decision.

The executive arm of the European Union concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits to the U.S. tech giant, which is illegal under EU state aid rules, allowing Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 percent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014.

Maestri said that the EU had incorrectly calculated how much tax Apple pays in the country and said that the ruling would be "devastating" for the European economy. He added that the European Commission had sought to replace Irish tax law and has "seriously" undermined the sovereignty of EU member states.

Aidan Crawley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The ruling, which will be contested by both Apple and the Irish government, may threaten Ireland's ability to attract investment from global companies eager to limit their tax bill on overseas earnings. In pre-market trading, Apple's stock was down nearly 2 percent in pre-market trading.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Apple said it would contest the ruling and it was "confident" the decision would be overturned.

Apple's General Counsel Bruce Sewell, also speaking on the conference call, said that the company would do everything it can do to try to get the issue in front of a court, with the belief that the company would win. Sewell said that the EU's ruling "made no sense."

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, speaking earlier Tuesday, said that the "selective tax treatment of Apple in Ireland" was illegal under EU state aid rules, because it gave Apple a significant advantage over other businesses that were subject to the same national taxation rules.

"If my effective tax rate was 0.05 percent, then falling to 0.005 percent, I would have the feeling that maybe I should have a second look at my tax bill," Vestager said in a rebuke to Apple, one of the world's biggest companies and maker of the iPhone.

"We're sending a message to any taxpayer in Europe: This is a wonderful place to do business and invest, but you have to play by the rules," she told CNBC.

Apple's Sewell said some of the statements made by Vestager were "astounding" and he questioned what the ruling meant for the sovereign laws of EU member states.

—CNBC's Catherine Boyle and Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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