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  (Source: Reuters)
Ireland also blasts U.S. criticism of "tax sheltering"

The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate has turned its attention to Apple, Inc. (AAPL) by focusing on the low effective tax rates paid on the profits hauled in by the tech industry's most profitable firm.  Today as Apple's CEO Tim Cook -- who once suggested Apple has more money than it knows what to do with -- was grilled by Congress on his so-called "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich," which allows Apple to cut taxes by directing profits through low-cost Irish subsidiaries, the Netherlands and the Caribbean. However, Irish officials and some U.S. conservatives returned fire.

I. Irish Say Senate's Numbers Are Wrong

Apple's cash pile may grow to $170B USD by the year's end which is about 1 percent of the national debt of the U.S. Officially, U.S. tax rates on corporate profits hover around 18-20 percent after deductions, but Apple is accused of paying far less via using shell companies in low tax regions.

But in an interview with Irish news agency RTE Deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore slammed accusations of wrongdoing, remarking, "They are issues that arise from the taxation systems in other jurisdictions, and that is an issue that has to be addressed first of all in those jurisdictions." 

A spokesman for Ireland's finance department said the nation's system was fully transparent and statute based.  He stated resolutely that there was "no possibility of individual special tax rate deals for companies."

A spokeswoman for Ireland's Office of the Revenue Commissioners adds, "All companies in Ireland pay the standard 12.5 percent rate on their trading profits arising in Ireland, and they pay a corporation tax rate of 25 percent on their Irish non-trading income."

Apple Operations
Apple Operations Inc. (A.O.I.) in Cork, Ireland reportedly received $29.9B USD in profits between 2009 and 2012, and paid less than 2 percent in taxes. [Image Source: Reuters]

Irish citizens are also defensive about the country's strategy of snagging multinational companies' outposts via low tax rates.  They say the nation's unemployment issues would be worse if it were not for companies like Apple.  Comments one worker to Reuters, "We're a small country and feel we can't say no. We know they'll just go off to one of these Asian countries ... They're a law unto themselves."

Apple maintains a three-story office building in Cork, which is currently receiving a shining new glass-and-steel expansion, funneling money to local builders and contractors.  Apple also directly employs 2,800 in Cork, and has promised to add another 500 employees shortly.

But according to the 40-page Senate memo released before the hearing, Apple hides much of its income in a trio of Irish subsidiaries that have no official tax residency in Ireland.  The Senate memo claims Apple has paid an effective rate of around 2 percent for the last ten years, versus the aforementioned "official" rate of 12.5 percent.  The report claims that between 2009 and 2012 Apple affiliates funneled $29.9B USD in profits -- or roughly 30 percent of profits -- into the Cork subsidiaries.

The average tax rates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) -- whose member states include most of the nations Apple operates in -- had an average tax rate of 24 percent in 2012, yet Apple only paid 1.9 percent that year on its $37B USD in overseas profit that year, thanks to its clever positioning.  The memo comments, "Ireland has essentially functioned as a tax haven for Apple."

Ireland's European Affairs minister Lucinda Creighton claimed the Senate's figure of a 2 percent rate in Ireland was flat-out wrong.  She comments, "There is no such deal. There is no deal for any company to pay 2 percent corporate tax in Ireland - that is erroneous."

But Apple's accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP refused to confirm or deny the number, saying it was confidential information.

II. Conservatives in the Senate Blast Hearings

Scrutiny picked up steam in April 2012, following a report in The New York Times accusing Apple of dodging millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other U.S. states (and dodging billions of dollars in taxes worldwide).  Over the past year, British Parliamentarians have held hearings regarding Apple's behavior.

According to their figures Apple pocketed £6B ($9.50B USD) in profit from the British market last year, but paid only £10M ($15.8M USD) in taxes.  Apple in a statement denied it engaged in "tax gimmicks" and said it would pay $7B USD in the U.S. in taxes in fiscal 2013.

The Congressional hearing took place this afternoon.

In the hearing Tim Cook -- accompanied by Apple's Head of Tax Operations Phillip A. Bullock -- admits, "I have no current plan to bring them back at the current tax rate."

On Apple Operation Int'l, Tim Cook said, "[A.O.I.] is nothing more than a holding company — it’s not an operating company.  [A.O.I.] is nothing more than a company that has been set up to provide an efficient way to manage Apple’s cash from income that’s already been taxed.  In my view A.O.I. does not reduce U.S. taxes at all."

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his company at the hearing. [Image Source: Reuters]

He says Apple pays tax on profit from every single product it sells in the U.S.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) remarked, "The only reason you’re not bringing them home is because they were transferred to these three Irish companies.  That’s the reason why they’re there. It’s your decision not to bring those profits home, so now $100 billion plus is stashed away in those three Irish companies that you control but is nonetheless in their legal name. The question is, will you bring them home?"

He points to an Apple subsidiary to paid only $5B USD back to Apple's U.S. operations, but received a reported $74B USD in profit -- a net tax loss of almost $70B USD in taxable income for the U.S.

Sen. Levin suggests Congress should play debt collector, trying to recoup the lost taxes from Apple's cash pile.  And he believes it is possible to do so under the current law.  He comments, "It is possible to penetrate an entity’s corporate structure for tax purposes and to collect U.S. taxes on its income, [if it is shown that a foreign subsidiary is] nothing more than instrumentality of its parent company, a sham."

Some conservatives joined in the fray.  Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Republican presidential nominee, remarked that, "Apple has violated the spirit of the law if not the letter of the law."

John McCain
Sens. John McCain (R, right) and Levin (D, left) were not satisfied with Mr. Cook's answers.
[Image Source: AP]

He argued, though, that the onus was on Congress to perform "comprehensive reform" of the tax system.

III. Sen. Paul Wants Apology From Congress, Reform

But Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), countered that Apple's South Korean rival Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) pays the same effective rate as Apple globally -- 14 percent.  But he comments that the real problem is the high tax rate in the U.S. -- he points out that South Korea's lower tax rate allows it to return its profits home.

Villanova University Law School Professor J. Richard Harvey Jr. seemed to echo this perspective in testimony as an expert witness.  While he accused Apple of dodging $7.7B USD in U.S. taxes, he complained that the U.S. tax code makes returning money onerous.  He suggested a "long term solution" of lowering the tax rate on overseas profits returned to the U.S. to 15 percent.

Tim Cook agrees.  In his testimony, he comments, "Unfortunately the tax code has not kept up with the digital age."

One of Mr. Cook's biggest defenders was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.).  He said Apple should be cheered for, not "vilified", remarking, "Money goes where it is welcome.  Everybody talks about tax reform. Just do it."

Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul defended Apple and said Senate Democrats -- as well as some Republicans like Sen. McCain should be ashamed and owe Apple a big apology. [Image Source: The NYT]

On Twitter he posted:

While the debate is unlikely to be laid to rest easily, it should be noted that many other companies like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Google Inc. (GOOG) also shelter money in Ireland.  Google recently came under fire for dodging about $1.6B USD USD (£1B) in taxes by way of the island Bermuda. Google sent £6B ($9.6B USD) through Bermuda over the course of last year, which halved its 2011 tax bill.

Other top companies like Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) also are accused of using Caribbean, European, or Asian tax havens.  Of course, such tactics could be argued to actually be performing a key duty to shareholders -- minimized taxes under the law and maximizing profits.

Sources: The New York Times, Reuters



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RE: The World's Tax Collector
By Solandri on 5/22/2013 5:17:49 AM , Rating: 5
Except Apple doesn't do that.

Apple had $157 billion in revenue and $41.7 billion in profit in FY2012.
http://www.pocketgamer.biz/r/PG.Biz/Apple+financia...

About 40% of Apple's revenue comes from the U.S.
http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/23/apple-internation...

40% of $41.7 billion profit is $16.7 billion profit attributable to the U.S. It's probably a little higher because the items sold here are probably skewed towards the higher profit items (e.g. high-end laptops, and phones/tablets with 64 GB of storage).

Apple paid nearly $6 billion in taxes to the U.S. in FY2012.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2013/0...

$6 billion / $16.7 billion = 35.9%

The numbers support Apple's claim that it's not playing any accounting tricks when it comes to U.S. taxes.


RE: The World's Tax Collector
By Spacy on 5/22/2013 7:59:47 AM , Rating: 2
Slight problem. Your math suggests a simple solution to a complex tax problem. The report indirectly reported that the actual expenses/profit for apple might have been off as reported. Ie reported expenses to Ireland given a tax reduction that are not really expenses but tax sheltering of income. The money of 70Billion is stored in the country held by the American branch that is not being taxed on ( The rich and every one have to payee taxes on money that earns interest). There for the company uses American investment funds they should be using to payee American Government on investment income. Instead taking the money out of the country to avoid paying American tax system and holding the money were it well payee less taxes on investment income. This is a big tax problem that cannot be solved with a simple equation.


RE: The World's Tax Collector
By dsumanik on 5/28/2013 5:22:32 PM , Rating: 2
TO EVERY POSTER IN THIS THREAD ARGUING APPLE ISNT DOING ANYTHING WRONG:

IF APPLE, GOOGLE, MSFT ET AL ARE PAYING THEIR TAXES LEGALLY AND CONFORMING TO THE NECESSARY LAWS... WHY ON EARTH ARE THEY STORING MONEY AND PAYING TAXES IN BERMUDA AND IRELAND?

ILL TELL YA WHY:

ITS CHEAPER

YES IT IS LEGAL, YES I COULD DO IT AND SO COULD YOU....

BUT,

IS APPLE, AN AMERICAN OWNED AND OPERATED COMPANY PAYING AS MUCH TAX TO THE US GOVERNMENT AS THEY WOULD BE HAD THEY BEEN DOING EVERYTHING ON US SOIL?

NO.

ITS EVADING TAXES LEGALLY.

OR CHOOSING TO LEGALLY PAY LESS TAX.

TAKE YOUR PICK.

AS A BUSINESS OWNER MYSELF WHO WORKS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER I CAN TELL YOU THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON, AND ONE REASON ALONE I WOULD EVER PAY THE COSTS OF SETTING UP, COMPLYING, AND FILING TAXES IN A FORIEGN COUNTRY:

TO SAVE MONEY.


RE: The World's Tax Collector
By dsumanik on 5/28/2013 5:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
In the hearing Tim Cook -- accompanied by Apple's Head of Tax Operations Phillip A. Bullock -- admits, "I have no current plan to bring them back at the current tax rate."


THAT SAYS IT ALL.

WE DO IT TO AVOID THE US TAX RATE


RE: The World's Tax Collector
By Mint on 5/22/2013 12:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
You are assuming that corporate taxes should be payed in the jurisdiction where the product is sold, not where it is developed/produced.

Are most foreign companies that sell product in the US doing the same? Does the US get a cut of their profits? I highly doubt it. They simply export goods to the US and pay taxes in their own country. Most free trade advocates want to keep it this way.

While Apple's physical products are produced overseas, the secret sauce that makes them so profitable (design, software, ecosystem, image) is produced in the US.

There's no easy way to decide how globally produced products should have their associated profit taxed. If we take your methodology, US companies exporting to others can pay taxes to other gov'ts, but others providing imports don't have to pay taxes here (I know you didn't explicitly say that, but impossible to enforce anything else). That means the US gov't gets the short end of the stick.


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