Apple Inc paid an income tax rate of only 1.9 percent on its earnings outside the US in its latest fiscal year, a regulatory filing by the company shows.
The world’s most valuable company paid US$713 million in tax on foreign earnings of US$36.8 billion in the fiscal year ended on Sept. 29, according to the financial statement filed on Wednesday last week. The foreign earnings were up 53 percent from the last fiscal year, when Apple earned US$24 billion outside the US and paid income tax of 2.5 percent on it.
The tech giant’s foreign tax rate compares with the general US corporate tax rate of 35 percent.
Apple may pay some income taxes on its profit to the country in which it sells its products, but it minimizes them by using various accounting moves to shift profits to countries with low tax rates.
For example, the strategy known as “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich” routes profits through Irish and Dutch subsidiaries, and then to the Caribbean.
Other multinational corporations also use such tax techniques, which are legal.
Like other big companies, Apple leaves cash overseas. If it brought it home to the US, it would have to pay US corporate taxes on the money. The cash that Apple has left overseas as of Sept. 29 has mounted to a stunning US$82.6 billion, up from US$74 billion as of June 30.
Where Apple does differ from other companies is that it sets aside a portion of the foreign profits, marking them as subject to US taxes sometime in the future.
When Apple reports quarterly results, it records that portion of the taxes as a liability, which is subtracted from its profits even though it has not actually paid the taxes.
Tax experts say the company could easily eliminate these “phantom” tax obligations. That would boost Apple’s profits for the past three years by as much US$10.5 billion, according to calculations by The Associated Press reported in July.
While investors might rejoice if Apple suddenly added US$10.5 billion to its profits, unilaterally erasing a massive US tax obligation could tarnish its reputation as a relatively responsible payer of US taxes. Instead, the company is lobbying to change US law so that it can erase its liabilities in a less conspicuous fashion.
Overall, California-based Apple had a net income of US$41.7 billion, or US$44.15 per share, in the fiscal year. That was up 61 percent from US$25.9 billion, or US$27.68 per share, last fiscal year.