Apple is the latest major multinational to find itself in the cross-hairs of the EU commission.

And the massive $20 billion tax bill levied on the tech giant could set the scene for a titanic battle.

The Commission's three-year investigation into Apple's sweetheart deal with Ireland found it amounted to illegal state aid.

A damning report revealed the firm paid as little as 0.005 per cent tax by funnelling its non-US profits through a 'so-called headquarters' in Ireland with no staff or premises.


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The EU's giant tax bill will not be difficult for the company to pay because it has amassed a huge $216b offshore cash fund and last year made $63b - the biggest profit in corporate history.

But Apple will appeal and the tech giant's CEO Tim Cook, who previously called the probe 'political c**p', is threatening EU job losses if they don't back down. The Irish government has also attacked the ruling as 'bizarre'.

The US Treasury has warned the EU not to pursue American companies over tax avoidance saying there is a 'disturbing' pattern of singling out US companies.

Click here for NZ Herald's Interactive feature on the global corporate tax debate - How multinationals pay no tax here.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter and eBay also have corporate facilities in Ireland - where attractions include minimal regulation and low corporate tax rates - which could come under renewed scrutiny.

The EU commission has already ruled that a tax deal for Starbucks in the Netherlands was unlawful. The company has been fined around $46 million, although again it is appealing.

Meanwhile, competition regulators are probing deals awarded by Luxembourg to both McDonald's and Amazon.

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel was today said to have suggested Google's tax structures should also be examined closely.