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How Ireland Got Apple's $9 Billion Australian Profit 288

elphie007 writes "An investigation by The Australian Financial Review has discovered how from 2002 to 2013, Apple has shifted approximately $AU8.9 billion of revenue generated in Australia to Ireland, via Singapore. The article states that last year alone, Apple Australia paid only $AU88.5 million in tax, or 0.044% of estimated potential tax liabilities. What's more, the Australian Tax Office has agreed that this arrangement is acceptable under Australian law."
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How Ireland Got Apple's $9 Billion Australian Profit

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  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:11AM (#46417993) Journal

    Remember moral != Legal, so just because they were able to cheat, doesn't mean they should. Also, they were under no legal or moral obligation to play silly buggers in order to cheat the Austrailians out of tax.

    and yes it's cheating because they get to use all of the resources that Aus provides to allow business to make money the pay for almost none of it. That makes them little more than freeloading scum.

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:18AM (#46418033) []

    Ireland uses territorial taxation, and hence does not levy taxes on income booked at subsidiaries of Irish companies that are outside of the state. In the late 1980s, Apple Inc. was among the pioneers in creating this tax structure.

    I guess not. They just siphon all the profits using Hollywood accounting over imaginary property to Ireland and stash them in Bermuda.

  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:21AM (#46418045)

    the answer is simply to change the law, stop any tax-sharing agreements with foreign governments that allow super-low rates of tax, or refuse to recognise any "head office" that is little more than a postbox.

    I mean, if the government (not just Aus) said "We agree with tax sharing but the tax rate here is 20% (or whatever) then we will recognise the tax paid by Apple Investment Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd at 1%, but we still charge the remaining 19% to the company's revenues made here".

    The head office thing can be dealt with just like the EU 1995 directive that was applied to banks after the collapse of the BCCI bank - their HQ has to be in the same place as their registered office. (this is not so they can avoid tax, more that they can be effectively regulated, but I guess it wouldn't hurt WRT tax).

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:21AM (#46418047)

    I don't know what summary or article you read, but it concludes that the minimal paying of taxes using this strategy is perfectly legal under both Australian and Irish law. The only precedent is that... business can continue as usual.

  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:23AM (#46418061)

    It's not cheating if the ones making the rules (The Aussie government) says it's perfectly legal.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:23AM (#46418063) Journal

    Assuming they didn't violate any laws, they aren't "cheating". Go talk to your legislator if you are upset. People enjoy keeping money hey earn.

    Also, this type of article should be filed under Slashdot/NPR, as it's about harping on certain political agendas -- let's gather together and reinforce our anger/banding-together memes. AKA politics as intended.

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:29AM (#46418105) Homepage

    That makes them little more than freeloading scum.

    You are correct. So did MItt Romney when he took advantage of a loophole in the law to move over $100 megabucks to a tax shelter in the Bahamas.

    This is all perfectly legal, just like tax breaks and welfare is perfectly legal for people who are poor.

    Which of these two did he choose to highlight as immoral? The poor person of course, not Apple's or his own immoral behavior.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:35AM (#46418131)

    It's not cheating if the ones making the rules (The Aussie government) says it's perfectly legal.

    It makes me wonder exactly when and how those rules got onto the law books, how they were sponsored, and what relationship the supporting politicians had with the major corporations of that time.

    There are lots of ways to cheat that are legally legitimate.

  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:49AM (#46418211)
    No, no more than they have a duty to do anything else immoral ( like slave labor in China or dumping waste in some poor country with few environmental regulations ) to boost profits. Their duty to shareholders comes after acting ethically.

    And it is unethical. If only those wealthy enough to set up shell corporations and make imaginary tax evasion schemes can participate in evading taxes, but those that can't are forced in the burden of taxation, despite the expectation of the law to be that every company or entity be taxed.

    If you accept that there is a duty for all to be subject to the same tax law, which I think we all do (regardless your perspective of tax evasion), then abusing a loophole to keep from paying taxes violates Kant's FUL, and is therefore also logically unethical if you follow Kantian ethics. For Utilitarians, I am sure you could make the argument that the tax evaded dollars serve the evaders far less than the good taxation does for Australia, but I don't follow that regime.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @09:52AM (#46418245)

    Actually, the U.S. is one of the few countries who claim the right to tax income of its citizens, no matter in what country it was earned [].

  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @10:03AM (#46418331)
    Be prepared to be ashamed for things you do buy then. Apple tends to get singled out for some reason, but the things it gets criticized for are the norm, any transnational that is not doing them is just hurting itself and becoming less competitive. This is something that can only be fixed if the rules change in a way that effect all the companies, not something that public shaming of individual ones can help.
  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @10:19AM (#46418455) Homepage

    Apple - nor any corporation - is not a charity. It's not their job to pay more taxes than they legally have to. Their job is specifically the opposite - generate as much value for shareholders as they can.

    Any company that pays more than they have to by law should be questioned, or the shareholders should revolt. Actually... I can't think of any example of one that does, intentionally at least.

    So - the issue is NOT with Apple - TFS even says that the Australian tax office agrees this is all above board - but the issue is with their tax system. It's structured to allow that, intentionally or not. There are all kinds of tax incentives in the world, and they're all there to encourage the right mix of business development and growth that the region needs. Essentially, tax is used as an incentive to offset the disadvantages that would otherwise naturally be there (labor cost, non-ideal locations, skill levels, etc.).

    Don't be mad at Apple... EVERY company does this. Haters be hat'n, I guess. :)

  • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @10:26AM (#46418511)

    No the problem is the wealthy are constantly arguing visibly and publicly that the poor are stealing from them, and that they should be allowed to opt out of supporting anyone. For things like food and medicine. Because it the super-wealthy are just so upset at looking at that big tax number on paper (they are not affected in any literal fashion whatsoever - if they were, they'd be middle class...who also are frequently on the list of "people who should pay more" from the super-wealthy).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2014 @10:55AM (#46418811)

    Yes, I agree, things do have to change.

    BUT people will NOT take notice until you DO start shaming individual companies.

    That's how change happens.

    Just throwing up your hands and saying, "Oh well, it's the norm. It's got to change." Means nothing to people; which means you are not going to get the political class to do something about it. They'll just keep things the way they are because people won't notice.

    People have to get outraged. They have to see INDIVIDUAL companies and INDIVIDUALS who don't pay taxes because of BS like this: see the Forbes 400 for many of the folks who legally dodge taxes because they made up the rules.

    So we NEED to shame Apple, Google, GE, HP, IBM, and every other golbal mega corp that shifts profits around the World to avoid taxes. We need people like Warren Buffet to say, "Hey look, my secretary has a higher effective tax rate than I do."

    And this bullshit of "well if Buffet doesn't like it, then he can pay more on his own!" doesn't cut it because there are HUNDREDS of other billionaires and centi-millionaires who are getting away it.

    We NEED 1950s income taxes again - adjusted for inflation, of course.

  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Thursday March 06, 2014 @11:14AM (#46419017) Homepage

    Lol, as if any other companies are any better. Microsoft has been doing this for far longer than Apple, so has Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Dropbox, eBay, EMC, Facebook, Google, HP, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Logitech, Oracle, PayPal, Twitter and a number of other companies.

  • by xednieht ( 1117791 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @11:14AM (#46419021) Homepage
    Why the FUUUUUUCK does audio randomly start playing on ads on /. who is the fucking imbecile that thought it would be a good idea to annoy the FUCK out of people. Fuck you moron, Fuck you moron, FUCK YOU MORON! Yes i'm mad bro.
  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @11:45AM (#46419345) Journal

    Of course you're right. This is one of the reasons I drum the "all taxes are regressive". The rich can and will avoid as much tax liability, often quite legally (like this), while the poor and middle class cannot, because they do not have the resources. If you could spend 100 to save 1000 in taxes, wouldn't you?

    There is a fix for this, a transfer tax, rather than an income tax. Tax money leaving your country. The easiest avoidance of these taxes is to keep the money in country, helping the country's economy. If money NEEDS to leave, then it provides an incentive to bring jobs home and use the resources of your own country.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @11:57AM (#46419491)

    ...Apple tends to get singled out for some reason

    Advertising on column inches. A story about Apple gets more views than a story about some other company.

    It's the same reason we keep hearing about "Google busses" being stopped, even though one of them actually belonged to Intuit; reporting it as a Google bus sold more ads per column inch than reporting it as an "Intuit bus" would have.

  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Thursday March 06, 2014 @12:53PM (#46420161)

    How about instead of taxing income, you tax money being transferred out of state/country?

    Because that would discourage free trade and international investment – it would tend to be even more distorting and inefficient than an income tax. Industries would tend to be local, smaller, and less efficient. And why would people want to invest abroad knowing that their income would be taxed when it comes back to them.

    The US already kind of does this. As one of the kludges to handle the resident / domical issue money left abroad is not taxed. This has led to some weird situations which non-US companies avoid.

    As to taxes being evil – that is a different kettle of fish. We can debate what type of levels of taxes there should be. My principle point is that the US use of dominical instead of residence / territory is highly inefficient and distortive. If we are going to have a corporate income tax then we should have the best one out there – which means using residence / territory like the rest of the world.

    Side note - I have seen studies that corporate taxes under ~15% have a low to no impact on future investments.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"