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Eurogroup head to US: If you want billion-dollar fines to stop, sort out your taxes

The U.S. must sort out its tax regime if they want to protect their companies from billion-dollar penalties imposed on Apple by the European Union, the head of the euro zone finance ministers group told CNBC.

The iPhone maker has found itself in the crosshairs of European regulators for its business tax arrangement with Ireland.European regulators recently determined that Apple must fork over more than $14 billion as a result of having received in "illegal tax benefits."

Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of a Eurogroup meeting in Bratislava Saturday, the group's head, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said that Apple's row with Europe was largely a "tax issue."

Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
Yves Herman | Reuters
Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Dijsselbloem said that "American companies will have to pay their taxes. Actually I would prefer they have a good arrangement at home in the U.S. to pay their taxes. But that I cannot sort out from Europe.

"The Americans need to make sure their companies pay a fair share, at home, and that would solve a large part of this issue."

'Times are changing'

Tim Cook
Mark Neuling | CNBC
Tim Cook

For its part, Ireland has opposed the European Commission's ruling on concerns that it would jeopardize its policy of wooing foreign businesses to relocate there, as well as interfering with the country's' sovereign right to set tax policy.

In response, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has slammed the decision as "total political crap" and "completely unfair,"

However, Dijsselbloem dismissed the controversy, telling CNBC that there was a new mood in Europe.

"The bottom line is, and the big companies have to realise this, times are changing and new times will ask them, make them, pay taxes in a fair way," he said.

"Where they make their profits, they must pay their taxes to a fair amount, a fair share and I think for too long they have been able to get out of that and it has to stop," the official told CNBC.

"I think to my citizens I cannot explain why they should pay their fair share and the large companies do not."

Earlier this week, Ireland's Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, told CNBC that the government will appeal the ruling to provide "clarity and certainty."

"I am confident the appeal will succeed because what has happened here is that the European Commission has made a finding with regards to state aid rules, which crosses the threshold into tax competency, which is a matter for each individual country," Kenny told CNBC.

Apple also plans to mount a separate appeal.

Katy Barnato contributed to this report.

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