Apple's tax on the road to nowhere

May 21, 2013

Ah, the irony. Apple's arch-rival, Google, has been getting a hammering in the UK recently for its corporate tax arrangements - or rather it's attempts to lie its way out of them (see - Google: It ain't over until the last whistleblower gives that final 'toot).

Now it turns out that Apple has been up to those tricks and more. Not content with escaping corporation tax on profits made in the UK (and presumably all its other European territories) via Ireland's much lower corporation tax rate, it has decided to take things one step further and declare itself above any form of temporal control. It has, in the words of one of the US politicians investigating it, found the ultimate scheme - that's the one where you don't have to pay anything.

It does this by leaving huge dollops of virtual cash in electronic limbo. According to Carl Levin, the Democrat chairman of a permanent subcommittee charged with investigating things like corporate tax naughtiness: "Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be a tax resident nowhere."

The committee has come up with various fiscal horror stories: one of Apple's Irish subsidiaries booked profits of US$22 billion but paid taxes of just US$10 million; another enjoyed revenues of US$74 billion over three years but paid taxes on that at one twentieth of a per cent. Nice avoidance if you can get it!

The committee claims Apple is holding US$100 billion outside the US!

Ashamed? Not a bit of it. Apple has gone on the attack with an almost pouting complaint that it's been forced to borrow money to pay its shareholders' dividends because otherwise it would have been forced to pay a 35 per cent repatriation tax. Until that's lowered, the subtext appears to be, it will continue to keep its money out of the country.

Oh, and it also wants the corporate tax system simplified, lower tax rates and a 'reasonable' tax on foreign earnings. You know about its foreign earnings - that's the money it's made by avoiding national corporation tax in Europe.

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