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How Apple's offshore tax mess could impact your business

Christopher Null | May 23, 2013
Can your small business get in on the excitement of overseas tax shelters?

What you need to get started is a foreign subsidiary*. You'll want to set this up in a low-tax region like Ireland or Belize (there are businesses out there than can do this for you), and channel any sales you make overseas through this holding company. You can leave it there (where it is technically "tax deferred") or claim that it is going to be "reinvested" overseas, which allows it to be taken off the books. Use the funds to make acquisitions, buy inventory that's later going to be sold offshore, or simply hold it as working capital.

You can even get this money back into the U.S., like HP did, by making short-term loans to your U.S. self, or simply by waiting for a "tax holiday," which the U.S. government has offered to discourage cash from being hoarded offshore. In 2004, the U.S. briefly cut the repatriated earnings tax rate to just 5%, which is likely what Cook is hoping for. Now that's a tax deal I'd take any day! (To be crystal clear: You must have an iron stomach and scads of earnings to do any of this stuff, and I'm not suggesting you even consider such a strategy without serious deliberation and very good reasons for doing so.)

Is any of this legal? Offshoring has been a gray area for decades, and as long as American corporations have their footholds in Washington, it will continue to be so. It certainly doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. So why should the big guys have all the fun?

* Disclaimer: I am not a tax or accounting professional. None of this should be treated as financial advice or a business recommendation of any kind.


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