Why companies stash cash overseas
Apple has defended its tax arrangements after reports revealed it had shifted its mountain of offshore cash from Ireland to a tax haven in the English Channel.
A trove of documents known as the Paradise Papers have reportedly shed light on Apple's search for a new place to store the huge sums, after more than two decades of benefiting from artificially low taxes in Ireland.The company has resisted bringing the money back to the U.S. because of the massive tax bill it would face.
Coverage of the documents is being coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has shared them with major media outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC.
CNN hasn't independently reviewed the documents.
Related: What you need to know about the Paradise Papers
Apple (AAPL, Tech30) for years funneled most of its overseas profits through Ireland. Arrangements with the Irish government allowed Apple to pay a tax rate of just 0.005% in 2014 on the money it made selling its products to most of the world outside America, according to the European Commission.
The ICIJ reports that the maker of the iPhone and iPad began hunting for a new jurisdiction to hold overseas profits after Ireland in 2014 came under pressure from the European Commission to close tax loopholes that allow companies to lower their tax below Ireland's 12.5% rate.
Apple eventually opted for Jersey, a British Crown Dependency off the coast of France that doesn't usually charge tax on foreign companies' profits and mostly falls outside of EU jurisdiction. Jersey also has strong links to the U.K. banking system.
The ICIJ reported that the documents in the Paradise Papers suggest Apple didn't want word of the Jersey move to get out.
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Apple, which currently has $252 billion of its cash outside the U.S., said in a statement Monday that it adjusted its corporate structure when Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015.
"As part of these changes, Apple's subsidiary which holds overseas cash became resident in the U.K. Crown dependency of Jersey, specifically to ensure that tax obligations and payments to the U.S. were not reduced," the company said.
Related: Why big American companies stash cash overseas
"Since then Apple has paid billions of dollars in U.S. tax on the investment income of this subsidiary," it added. "There was no tax benefit for Apple from this change and, importantly, this did not reduce Apple's tax payments or tax liability in any country."
The company said it "pays every dollar it owes in every country around the world," including tax in the U.S. at the standard rate of 35% and an effective rate of 21% on foreign earnings.
"This rate has been consistent for many years," it added.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to defend Apple's tax practices in testimony to the U.S. Senate in 2013.
There's no indication Apple has done anything illegal. The company didn't immediately respond to requests for further comment on its international tax arrangements.
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Apple isn't the only global tech firm to run international operations out of Ireland. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) also has its European HQ in the country.
The European Union is currently trying to force Ireland to collect €13 billion ($15 billion) in unpaid taxes from Apple. The European Commission -- the EU's executive arm whose remit includes antitrust cases -- ruled last year that the Irish government had granted illegal aid to Apple by helping it keep its tax bill artificially low for more than 20 years.
The Irish government said last month that while it has "never accepted the Commission's analysis" in the Apple case, it was working to recover the taxes.
Cook has said the Commission's ruling has "no basis in fact or in law," calling it "obvious targeting of Apple."
The Paradise Papers disclosures come as President Trump's administration seeks to overhaul the U.S. federal tax code.
Under the House GOP tax bill, the main federal tax rate would be 20%, not 35%, and overseas profits would no longer be subject to U.S. tax. Instead they would be taxed by the country where the money is made.
CNNMoney (Hong Kong) First published November 7, 2017: 7:52 AM ET