The European Commission is preparing an investigation into the corporate tax codes in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The probe is examining the low tax rates global companies pay in the three countries, and will make known if their tax deals are allowed under EU law, or amount to illegal state aid.
If the investigation reveals that multinational corporations received the state aid, the commission could obligate them to pay it back, even though such requirements are uncommon.
The probe comes after yesterdays news that Apple used Irish tax laws to allow it to pay just a 3.7% tax rate on non-U.S. income during its last fiscal year. Other companies that will be investigated include Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Starbucks (SBUX).