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Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Apple's Secret Tax Bolthole (bbc.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The world's most profitable firm has a secretive new structure that would enable it to continue avoiding billions in taxes, the Paradise Papers show. They reveal how Apple sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven. It then moved the firm holding most of its untaxed offshore cash, now $252 billion, to the Channel Island of Jersey. Apple said the new structure had not lowered its taxes. It said it remained the world's largest taxpayer, paying about $35 billion in corporation tax over the past three years, that it had followed the law and its changes "did not reduce our tax payments in any country."

Leaked emails also make it clear that Apple wanted to keep the move secret. One email sent between senior partners at Appleby says: "For those of you who are not aware, Apple [officials] are extremely sensitive concerning publicity. They also expect the work that is being done for them only to be discussed amongst personnel who need to know." Apple chose Jersey, a UK Crown dependency that makes its own tax laws and which has a 0% corporate tax rate for foreign companies. Paradise Papers documents show Apple's two key Irish subsidiaries, Apple Operations International (AOI), believed to hold most of Apple's massive $252 billion overseas cash hoard, and Apple Sales International (ASI), were managed from Appleby's office in Jersey from the start of 2015 until early 2016. This would have enabled Apple to continue avoiding billions in tax around the world.
The report notes that Apple paid just $1.65 billion in taxes to foreign governments, despite making $44.7 billion outside the U.S. That's a tax rate of 3.7%, which is less than a sixth of the average rate of corporation tax in the world.
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Paradise Papers Leak Reveals Apple's Secret Tax Bolthole

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  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:02PM (#55502239) Journal

    https://www.merriam-webster.co... [merriam-webster.com]

  • Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:03PM (#55502257) Homepage

    They can do this because... country laws allow it all over the world.

    I can't fucking stand Apple one bit.

    But I'm infinitely more annoyed that any such arrangements are legal, no matter which countries are involved in helping them do this, than anything else. That only happens because the people writing the laws are using the same tricks themselves.

    If governments wrote tax-laws properly, they wouldn't be losing out on such tax, no matter what arrangement Apple tried to use.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is, the more restrictive you make laws the more they affect innocent people.

      Plus, corporations like Apple have whole departments focused on subverting the law. It's an eternal cat and mouse game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        To give you an example on the first point:

        Until recently a company doing business in the EU paid VAT in their country of residence. This led to most bigger corporations being incorporated in Luxemburg (which had the lowest VAT).

        To fight this the EU changed to law. Now companies have to pay VAT in the country of the buyer. The unfortunate side effect is, everyone has to reqister and pay taxes in every country they sell to. That's a massive burden to smaller companies. They either have to stop selling to othe

        • You mean having a table for 20 or so countries with 8-bit tax rate for each of them is a massive burden?

          • Re: Sigh. (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Not so much the database table.. more problematic is the variety of different rules (different rates / thresholds in different countries, different requirements (some countries require line by line details of every invoice), the registration itself is problematic (All Finland registration paperwork is in Finnish - up to you to decipher / translate)

            Quite a burden - and thatâ(TM)s *within* the EU

            • by Kiuas ( 1084567 )

              Not so much the database table.. more problematic is the variety of different rules (different rates / thresholds in different countries, different requirements (some countries require line by line details of every invoice), the registration itself is problematic (All Finland registration paperwork is in Finnish - up to you to decipher / translate)

              While you're right about the point of different countries having somewhat different rules, as a Finn and an entrepreneur I do have to wonder where you got the las

        • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Informative)

          by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @06:19PM (#55502769) Homepage

          To give you an example on the first point:

          Until recently a company doing business in the EU paid VAT in their country of residence. This led to most bigger corporations being incorporated in Luxemburg (which had the lowest VAT).

          To fight this the EU changed to law. Now companies have to pay VAT in the country of the buyer. The unfortunate side effect is, everyone has to reqister and pay taxes in every country they sell to. That's a massive burden to smaller companies. They either have to stop selling to other EU countries or outsource payment processing to third parties. Thus having to cut in yet another middleman.

          No it has always been so that you paid VAT on the residence of the buyer. Trust me, I have been paying 25% VAT on things bought on Amazon.co.uk for 15 years, and the VAT on books in the UK is 0%.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Correct. The seller only has to charge VAT at the rate of the buyer's country, they don't actually have to pay it to that tax authority. It is mostly automated via online payment processors so creates little burden.

          • by orzetto ( 545509 )

            I guess you are a resident of a non-EU country then, because I definitely ordered from Amazon to Italy and got billed from Luxembourg (i.e. zero VAT). When shipping to Norway, instead, the customs apply the VAT (none on books, but 25 % on most items).

            • I guess you are a resident of a non-EU country then, because I definitely ordered from Amazon to Italy and got billed from Luxembourg (i.e. zero VAT). When shipping to Norway, instead, the customs apply the VAT (none on books, but 25 % on most items).

              Nope. EU

              I even remember when the rule was activated in the 2000 because before then it was very common for everybody to order on amazon and not pay VAT, though we should, then customs started catching the packages and adding VAT, but you could get around it by ordering gift-wrapping, and then finally Amazon had to collect VAT for other EU countries based on the location of the buyer.

        • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

          Regulation usually advantages large incumbents over smaller competitors. That is evident to anyone that hasn't self inflicted the mental machinations necessary to pretend that regulation is never a harm, as so many do. Every hurdle, every extra middleman involved, every compliance process is another cost that large institutions amortize over a larger revenue base. Eventually an oligopoly emerges; a few competitors that specialize in ticking the boxes, influencing the powers that be and isolating themselv

          • by iserlohn ( 49556 )

            Regulation is neutral, it's who wrote and sponsored the regulation that affects the nature of it.

            If the regulation was written to protect consumers, then very rarely it benefits incumbent players in the market. Regulation on smoking, for example, actually encouraged the development of the vaping industry, which is filled with smaller companies.

            Competition and the efficient market is also not a be-all-and-end-all goal in society. There are things more important, like our health, fairness in our social fabric

            • Regulation may be neutral, but ridiculous amounts of it certainly aren't.
              One rule: Neutral.
              four hundred twenty-seven rules, applied depending on circumstances as varied as location, age, income, etc.: definitely not neutral.

        • The fix is an easy one. The simpler laws are, the harder it becomes to find loopholes. If the law was that everyone must pay 10% VAT regardless of buyer or seller country, then it become much harder to min-max the system. It is only when you start trying to introduce complexity and exception into the rules that loopholes get created.

          Apple better enjoy its position, because sooner or later, nation states will decide that they aren't going to have multi-nationals screwing with them, and just collectively d
        • This is misleading. The registration is done on your own country and you submit a quarterly VAT return detailing how much you sold to each other country. You then pay the full amount to your country, which is then in charge of distributing the money. You can also do it the way you've described, but I can't see why anyone would choose to do that. Source: worked on the system. It exists EU-wide, not just on my country

      • The problem is, the more restrictive you make laws the more they affect innocent people.

        Errm, no, because Corporate Taxes don't affect people, period. Unless you are a person who wants to reduce his taxes by pretending to be a corporation - at which point you are by definition not innocent.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
      My answer is "So what?"

      I try to take every deduction, every investment, every loophole I can that is legally available to me.

      I would expect no less from any other person or company.

      Hell, if the US would drop the corporate rate to something even nearly that low, I'll bet Apple and others would bring much of that money home.

      But if all of this is legal and it appears to be....then so what?

      Paying taxes is not a moral choice, it is a part of doing business.

      If you don't like companies or people using the cu

      • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:24PM (#55502379)

        Paying taxes is not a moral choice, it is a part of doing business.

        Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

        • Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

          That still doesn't make paying taxes have anything to do with morality.

          It is a legal obligation, nothing more.

          • Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

            Civilized society is specifically about morality.

          • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:50PM (#55502593) Homepage Journal

            That still doesn't make paying taxes have anything to do with morality.
            It is a legal obligation, nothing more.

            If you can afford to pay taxes to maintain the system that permits you to profit, and you don't and it causes people to suffer (which is how it works) then yeah, there's a moral issue there.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            this 80ies era MBA mentality that corporations have no moral obligation outside of earning profit is utterly stupid when said corporations are dependent on a variety of tax-payer funded resources such as infrastructure, healthy workforce, transit options, regulations, and corporate welfare.

            But then again, you're just a shitty corporate shill, most likely devoid of any sense of duty to society.

          • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

            Bollocks, you use the roads, you should pay for them, same for the emergency services and other government services. Expecting the less well off to pay for your services IS morally wrong, especially when you're making expensive toys for rich people/stupid people.

            • Bollocks, you use the roads, you should pay for them, same for the emergency services and other government services.

              Who said I'm not?

              I'm not arguing for tax evasion here...that is illegal.

              But I do pay the absolute minimum I am legally required to pay.

              I expect nothing more from any other person or entity.

          • Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

            That still doesn't make paying taxes have anything to do with morality.

            It is a legal obligation, nothing more.

            Them taxes pay for everything that makes your modern life (or conducting business) possible.

            So it is somewhat of a moral obligation to pay for shit we use directly or indirectly. And it is also a legal obligation because there are quite a few yokes who would not fulfill this moral obligation on their own free will.

            That taxes are used wisely or not in rendering public services, that's a different topic altogether, though.

            • He's technically right. So the debate becomes less "You should paaaaaaaay! you must!" and changes to "what are you legally obligated to pay?" Morality can play a part in what we decide to tax, but once that number is reached, nobody is obligated to pay a cent more.
              For example, if we feel everyone is paying too little, we change that through laws.

              Unless they want to : i donate to charity, I feel the need to do that.

        • Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society.

          That's fine and all; we pretty much all understand this.

          The question is, WHAT price? It's pretty obvious that 100% of your income is too hight a price to pay for "living in a civilized society" since then you can not even feed or clothe yourself.

          So there is some percentage of your income less than 100%, that is an acceptable compromise between paying nothing and paying everything.

          In the case of Apple and foreign ta

        • Paying taxes is not a moral choice, it is a part of doing business.

          Paying taxes is the price that we have to pay for the right of living in a civilized society. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

          Paying for taxes how, Mr. Holmes? All taxes are finally paid by individuals, and corporations in the legal sense of persons does not count. It is much more honest for individuals to pay their taxes themselves rather than have multiple layers of corporate taxes baked into the costs of everything they have to buy.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            MBA?

          • by dryeo ( 100693 )

            Why do so many people get this backwards? Taxes are ultimately usually paid by businesses and often those businesses are incorporated.
            Think about it. Where do most individuals get the money to pay taxes? That's right, in a paycheck from a business. So businesses, which are often incorporated, have to charge customers enough to pay their employees enough to not only live on, but also to pay taxes. Raise taxes on individuals, businesses have to pay more in salaries, which means they have to raise their prices

            • The final base for all taxes is wealth and all wealth (that is not under public ownership) is owned by individuals. Income from economic activity is generated by businesses. So while you appear to prefer to tax economic activity, I would prefer tax on final consumption by individuals.

        • If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare(...) The powers of Congress would subvert the very foundation, the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America. James Madison
      • What's not being mentioned here is that corporate taxes pay for the military. Regardless of what sort of propaganda we choose to believe, war is in the end about corporate profits (look up US Fruit and/or Smedley Butler). If these assholes are going to embroil us in conflicts, the least they can do is make sure the military's well-funded...
      • My answer is "So what?"

        I try to take every deduction, every investment, every loophole I can that is legally available to me.

        I would expect no less from any other person or company.

        Hell, if the US would drop the corporate rate to something even nearly that low, I'll bet Apple and others would bring much of that money home.

        But if all of this is legal and it appears to be....then so what?

        Paying taxes is not a moral choice, it is a part of doing business.

        If you don't like companies or people using the current rules....make some changes, but until then, quit bitching about it.

        If YOU want to pay more tax than you legally have to...there is a nice section on the form where you can voluntarily pay additional over and above what you owe.

        You realize the poster wanted to change the rules, exactly as you suggested.

      • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @06:20PM (#55502779) Journal
        It is all made legal by the legislators bought and paid off by these big companies.

        You and I do not have enough money to use all these loop holes. They are designed to catch little fry like us and let big sharks go.

        If you don't get that point you never will.

      • If you don't like companies or people using the current rules....make some changes, but until then, quit bitching about it.

        I think this "bitching" is really a statement that commonly interpreted as a colloquial way of saying "I disagree with the current legally acceptable practice of [whatever said 'bitching is about] and am advocating for having the laws enabling said practice changed." You occasionally see the reverse, when people are "bitching" about what they consider to be a common violation that shou

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not broadly disagreeing, but there's a 2 part issue here :

        The US is one of a very few countries that asserts taxation rights over foreign earnings of US corporations by effectively asserting if you are US owned - all company value is by definition created in the US. AND the US is not party to multi-lateral tax agreements - they insist on a series of bilateral agreements, which means they only have them with a limited number of countries (if such an agreement is in place, the tax they pay in say, Ireland, is

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        This is exactly why the proper title is psychopathic capitalism. Everyone knows what taxes pays for chiefly social services and infrastructure. The psychopathic capitalist mantra, is as many of you need to die as is legally possible in order to maximise my capital base, one thousand, one million, one billion utterly arbitrary, as many of you nobody pieces of shit need to die as is legal as long as it will make me richer, all you fuckers can die. That is Apple's mantra and like the others corporations is pay

      • But Tim Cook said "we comply not only with every law, but the spirit of the law". Here, laws were changed to try to force Apple to pay more tax, and all they did was went and found another loophole instead. Thus, they didn't comply with "the spirit" at all. Apple said that their tax bill didn't go down for all this, but they didn't say it went up either.

        Aside from all that, there's something wrong with the richest company in the world avoiding tax, isn't there? I mean, they're that rich in part because of t

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      I can't fucking stand Apple one bit.

      Why not? It is not Apple's fault. Some countries are to blame by creating unreasonable taxation on certain virtual goods sold by Apple not goods enabled to be produced by any particular host country, where lower rates are available in others.

      Apple's fiduciary duty to their shareholders is their Number 1 duty, they must utilize all lawful means available to maximize their profitability which includes minimizing or deferring as much of their excess tax burden as long

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They actually are not legal in most countries, it just needs to be legal in the one country where you are manufacturing.

      For example:
      China apple makes iPhone for $200 . They sell to Jursey Apple for $200. Zero profit and zero tax.

      Jursey Apple sell to apple USA for $1,000, who then on sell to consumer. So apple USA make nothing and have no profit. Apple Jursey have $800 profit, but no tax.

      If apple wants to develop something in California, Jursey Apple charges America apple to do design work for them.

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:58PM (#55502653) Homepage

      If governments wrote tax-laws properly, they wouldn't be losing out on such tax, no matter what arrangement Apple tried to use.

      Governments don't write tax laws - corporate lawyers at companies like Apple do. You see the problem now, right?

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @06:01PM (#55502677) Journal

      If governments wrote tax-laws properly, they wouldn't be losing out on such tax, no matter what arrangement Apple tried to use.

      And if pigs had wings they could fly.

      Governments are run by people and concentrate power, which corrupts them.

      They also operate on the "economy of negative values", which generates lots of unintended consequences as the people they're trying to loot, limit, or punish find ways to wiggle through loopholes.

    • If there is fraud and the tax haven bank steals all the money and goes away, where will Apple go to get the money back?

      All USA has to do is to indicate to these tax haven bank executives, there will be no prosecution, no criminal/civil charges if they steal all the money in their bank. It could even allow such executives to list it like "Gambling income", "money embezzeled from tax haven bank" and pay income taxes and the money would be legally theirs.

      Move money wherever you want to. But whoever pays ta

      • by imgod2u ( 812837 )

        If I understand my international trade (and I'll admit, I'm armchairing this), that's exactly the case. If whoever is storing Apple's $$ in the Island of Jersey decides to just shift it somewhere, Apple would have to appeal to the authorities in the Island of Jersey to get it back. The US government has no jurisdiction there.

        The thing is, if your gravy train is Apple Inc, you can be sure they can bribe enough of the local government officials to come after you and it's a much easier path to profit just to b

      • What would happen? Why such a tactic is not even being hinted at?

        Because many of the same people who want to hide their taxes are also people who are willing to hire hitmen to murder anyone who takes their money? I'm not saying that's Apple, but tax havens are in the position of doing business with some very unsavory characters. The only thing that keeps them alive is being scrupulous.

      • by stikves ( 127823 )

        Ah... That money is actually in US banks. The offshore company is the owner of these funds on paper, however they would not benefit from holding the money actually in that country.

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @07:50PM (#55503209)

      What you're missing is that these laws don't have these "loopholes" by accident. This is the way it's supposed to be. They were bought and paid for years ago by the likes of Halliburton, Exxon, Arthur Anderson (Sorry... Accenture), Bechtel, the Koch brothers, and the like. The only reason that DC have their panties in a wad about Apple's, Google's, or Amazon's taxes... and are dragging their names through the mud in the propaganda campaigns that the public is eating up... is that they're not the ones who paid for the laws. They were just clever enough to realize that, once on the books, the laws apply to everyone and not just the companies who bought them. And if Congress were to change the laws, the original purchasers would scream bloody murder and have the offending reps and senators replaced.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      Just wait till you get to the parts with Trump and the members of his administration.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      If governments wrote tax-laws properly, they wouldn't be losing out on such tax, no matter what arrangement Apple tried to use.

      They did write them properly ... for Apple.

  • Oh ... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 )

    ... "bolt" hole. Okay, not nearly as interesting.

  • No apple products here.
    Not Ever.

  • "It then moved the firm holding most of its untaxed offshore cash, now $252 billion, to the Channel Island of Jersey."

    Where is this happening?
    Across the Channel in Jersey.
    Everything is legal in Jersey.

    .
  • How much do the law firms that set up all the bullshit companies charge to hide your money from the tax man? How much money do you have to have in play to make this sort of thing worthwhile? Can someone with 10 million dollars benefit, or does it take 500 million? How do they guarantee that someone in the Cayman islands isn't going to disappear with a suitcase full of your cash?

    • Can someone with 10 million dollars benefit, or does it take 500 million?

      Someone with 10 million dollars can benefit, if they make enough of it at once. We don't tax savings, just earnings. If you make enough money at once and you can hide that by moving the money to a tax haven, you save money because you don't pay taxes. The tax haven will take a fee or percentage, so you only have to owe more than that for it to be worth it, and they don't take that much because they're a bank.

      The kind of scams that the poor could benefit from but don't have access to have to do with investme

  • With all the discussion of taxes lately, I looked up Apple's US income taxes, see http://investor.apple.com/fina... [apple.com]

    Bottom line: on income of about $64 billion, Apple paid about $16 billion in taxes. So even a company as rich as Apple is not paying the 35% rate that keeps being quoted by Congress, yet we need to lower the rate to 20%.

    • by pedz ( 4127433 )

      Their argument (not mine) is that because the tax rate is so high, it is cheaper for corporations to do bolthole shenanigans than it is to pay the taxes. The argument is that with lower tax rates, the bolthole shenanigans no longer are cost effective and so the corporations end up paying more taxes than they do today (and end up with a smaller total expense since they no longer have the expense of the bolthole shenanigans). As the boltholers like to chime "A win win!!!".

      K-Y jelly at the register

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lowering the corporate rate to 20% won't help because corporations are paying less than that now. If we are going to lower business taxes, we need to tax revenue to prevent the current accounting games.

      We tried the tax holiday during the 80s, were corporations promised if they were allowed to repatriate their profits at a lower rate that would allow them to expand in the US and increase employment. Congress and Reagan gave it to them. The corporations took the gift and gave the middle finger to America.

      Fool

    • With all the discussion of taxes lately, I looked up Apple's US income taxes, see http://investor.apple.com/fina... [apple.com]

      Bottom line: on income of about $64 billion, Apple paid about $16 billion in taxes. So even a company as rich as Apple is not paying the 35% rate that keeps being quoted by Congress, yet we need to lower the rate to 20%.

      Thank you. Someone finally gets it. That the richer one is the less taxes one effectively pays (while at the same time having purchasing power over how laws are enacted), that shit is truly a "taxation without representation" for the rest of us, people or companies, that make $500K a year or less.

    • The other side of that is that, of $2,656 billion in income plus FICA taxes, corporate income taxes amount to $299.6 billion. It's actually a pretty damned ineffective revenue source, and mostly functions as a Republican talking point which leans certain swing voters away from Democrats.

      Corporations also report two different numbers for profits. The one the IRS gets includes deductions like accelerated depreciation.

      Let's say you spend $1.1M and make $1.2M, with $100,000 of your spending on equipment.

  • The Paradise Paper's contents are exposing many people, Including the Present Secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross who holds investment in deal with Russian oligarchs Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko who are . sanctioned by the US and Vladimir Putin's son-in-law Kirill Shamalov. THen there is US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Gary Cohn of the Economic development council, and FaceBooks Mark Zuckerberg and a mess of others, like 120,000 people.

    But hey, Apple is clickbait, and the only miscreant

  • Apple said the new structure had not lowered its taxes. It said it remained the world's largest taxpayer, paying about $35 billion in corporation tax over the past three years

    Of course Apple remains the world's largest taxpayer. It is the world's most profitable corporation.

  • The report notes that Apple paid just $1.65 billion in taxes to foreign governments, despite making $44.7 billion outside the U.S. That's a tax rate of 3.7%, which is less than a sixth of the average rate of corporation tax in the world.

    This is why complex tax laws are bad, and anyone who thinks companies pay taxes is fooling themselves. Companies sell products to make money, and the price of those products is dependent on a sum of all costs (which includes taxes) and a profit margin.

    On the other end, it is actually pretty rare for companies to sit on massive amounts of cash like Apple. Those massive amounts of cash are making the dishonest politicians in the EU drool over the chance to grab more for their failing states, thus all of the

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