The subcommittee's report estimates that Apple avoided at least $3.5 billion in U.S. federal taxes in 2011 and $9 billion in 2012 by using the strategy. The company, based in Cupertino, Calif., paid $2.5 billion in federal taxes in 2011 and $6 billion in 2012.
Apple uses five companies located in Ireland to carry out its tax strategy, according to the report. The companies are located at the same address in Cork, Ireland, and they share members of their boards of directors. While all five companies were incorporated in Ireland, only two of them also have tax residency in that country. That means the other three aren't legally required to pay taxes in Ireland because they aren't managed or controlled in that country, in Apple's view.
The report says Apple capitalizes on a difference between U.S. and Irish rules regarding tax residency. In Ireland, a company must be managed and controlled in the country to be a tax resident. Under U.S. law, a company is a tax resident of the country in which it was established. Therefore, the Apple companies aren't tax residents of Ireland nor of the U.S., since they weren't incorporated in the U.S., in Apple's view.
The subcommittee said Apple's strategy of not declaring tax residency in any country could be unique among corporations.
"Apple wasn't satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven," said Levin. "Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be tax resident nowhere."
The subcommittee's inquiry and hearing are intended to shine a light on "offshore tax-avoidance tactics" by Apple, Levin said at a news conference Monday with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel's senior Republican. Companies' use of such loopholes has the effect of raising the taxes of ordinary Americans and increasing the federal deficit, he said.
McCain said that while Apple claims to be the biggest U.S. corporate taxpayer, it is also "among America's largest tax avoiders."
He called Apple's strategy "an egregious and really outrageous scheme that Apple has been able to orchestrate to avoid paying taxes."
Levin and McCain are proposing legislation to close loopholes in the tax code.
The subcommittee report also noted that Apple has been setting aside billions for tax bills it may never pay. As previously reported by The Associated Press, the overlooked asset that Apple has been building up could boost Apple's profits by as much as $10.5 billion. However, Apple has been lobbying to change U.S. law so it can erase its tax liabilities in a less conspicuous fashion.
In its second quarter ended March 31, Apple posted its first profit decline in ten years. Net income was $9.5 billion, or $10.09 a share, down 18 percent from $11.6 billion, or $12.30 a share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue increased 11 percent, to $43.6 billion.
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