Tech giant Apple made international headlines and inspired President Donald Trump to brag overnight about his role in making it all possible after announcing it would pay approximately $38 billion in taxes as it repatriates large sums of overseas cash holdings—but that dollar figure is less than half of what tax analysts say the company should be paying for those earnings.
The repatriation measure included in the "tax scam" law passed by Republicans and signed by Trump last year will result in a multinational corporations receiving an overall estimated tax cut of $413 billion.
According to estimates, Apple has kept more than $252 billion in profits overseas in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes. But with the Trump and GOP lowering the repatriation tax rate from 35% down to 15.5%, the lobbying by powerful and wealthy corporations—including Apple—is finally paying dividends. As Ars Technica notes, Apple didn't really have a choice about this. "Under the new tax bill," the outlet noted, "all overseas cash is subject to a one-time 15.5 percent tax whether Apple leaves it overseas or moves it to the United States."
But as pointed out by Richard Phillips, senior analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), there's even more to these numbers than most are reporting or pointing out:
We estimate that Apple owes about $78.6 billion in taxes on their accumulated offshore earnings (https://t.co/Lnqb4GYXRU), so if they pay $38 billion under the new tax bill (https://t.co/4p1MXgvfTQ), that equals a tax break of about $40.6 billion.— Richard Phillips, Inc. (@taxjusticewonk) January 17, 2018
As the analysis Phillips references warns, the repatriation measure included in the "tax scam" law passed by Republicans and signed by Trump last year will result in multinational corporations receiving an overall estimated tax cut of $413 billion.
Regarding future investments the company is now promising, which various reporting suggested may have happened with or without the tax repatriation windfall, Pillips added:
A Senate investigation found that Apple already has between 75% and 100% of their "offshore earnings" invested in the United States. Really the tax bill just gave Apple a huge tax windfall. https://t.co/DZGAKUifS7 https://t.co/USoNCb21WH— Richard Phillips, Inc. (@taxjusticewonk) January 18, 2018
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"We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible," declared Timothy D. Cook, Apple's CEO, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Will Rice, however, senior writer with Americans for Tax Fairness, challenged that narrative in a blog post on Thursday, arguing Apple's clear goal in promoting its repatriation "is to curry favor with the Trump administration by creating the mirage of positive economic news closely following the tax overhaul. The goal is to obscure the fact that the new law is a massive giveaway to huge multinational corporations like Apple."
And if Apple's sense of responsibility to "give back" is so deep, why avoid paying U.S. taxes on its earnings at the set rate for all these years? Of course many taxpayers around the world feel their rates are too high, but most pay their taxes dutifully nonetheless—many happily and gladly.
Perhaps, as Jason Rhodes wrote for Salon earlier this month, it's because Apple's most significant innovation over recent years is not its mind-blowing and fast-selling tech gadgets but its ability to dodge taxes across the globe. As Rhodes argues, it's very difficult to even imagine what a large number $252 billion actually is. "$252 billion. That's more than the foreign-currency reserves of Britain and Canada. A quarter trillion dollars. Sound that out in your mind, and then say it with your mouth. The phrase "quarter trillion dollars" is 22 letters and six syllables, and I'm afraid it doesn't quite do justice to the amount of capital involved."
And, he notes, "When Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Dec. 22, 2017, he rewarded Apple for keeping its money overseas, away from starving Americans and veterans with health problems. And Apple was party to all of this. Last year, the Big Five Tech companies increased lobbyist spending by 24.3 percent. By the third quarter of 2017, Apple spent $2.23 million petitioning Congress."
Apple (paraphrase, not real quote): "Please applaud us for doing the right thing, which we should have done in the first place instead of 'innovating' as much in tax dodging as technology." https://t.co/I2mpE0w7DT— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) January 17, 2018
As journalist David Dayen warned recently, as he explored how many corporations are enjoying the GOP tax cuts even as they lay off workers or fail to increase wages, "don't let a twisted and dishonest PR scheme by massive companies grateful for Trump's huge Christmas present distort the truth."