Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Apple's tax avoidance

Here are a few quotes from the US congressional report into Apple:

"Apple Inc established an offshore subsidiary, Apple Operations International, which from 2009 to 2012 reported net income of $30bn, but declined to declare any tax residence, filed no corporate income tax return and paid no corporate income taxes to any national government for five years."

"It is as though a bunch of alien techies arrived from Mars, sold us $30bn (£19.6bn) worth of smartphones and laptops, and then took all the moolah up to the stratosphere, where they simply circled the earth."

According to the senators on the Permanent Subcommitte on Investigations, Apple transferred offshore into low-tax countries the economic rights to its intellectual property - its valuable and usually patentable knowhow - with the result that it avoided around $10bn (£6.5bn) of US tax every year (what the senators characterise as $44bn, or £29bn, of US tax avoidance over the past four years).

The senators point out that Apple has continued to accumulate vast amounts of cash in places other than the US, and those cash holdings now exceed an eye-popping $102bn (£67bn). In the US, for example, corporate tax generated 32.1% of all federal taxes in 1952. Today that proportion has fallen to a puny 8.9%. Similar trends of corporate taxes generating a shrinking share of the state's costs hold in the UK.

Some would argue, the desire of Apple and other multinationals to minimise the taxes they pay in the US, or anywhere for that matter, may be rational for them individually but is bonkers for them collectively, since over time it will erode the very infrastructure of the global economy which allows them to thrive.

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