The world’s most valuable company is in the spotlight on day two of the Paradise Papers revelations.
The massive trove of leaked files shows that in 2015 Apple secretly began funneling part of its revenue from outside the Americas to the island of Jersey, a UK crown dependency with a 0% corporate-tax rate for foreign companies. Apple has traditionally had most of its overseas subsidiaries in Ireland, paying taxes no higher than 5%, but the EU began cracking down on that arrangement in 2013, and eventually ordered the company to repay €13 billion (plus €1 billion in interest) in taxes. (Ireland and Apple have appealed the decision.)
Apple went on the hunt for a new tax haven to manage its non-Americas cash. It turned to the offshore experts at the Appleby law firm for advice with a 14-item questionnaire, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The BBC published four of those questions:
The ICIJ published one more, which reportedly asked to “confirm that an Irish company can conduct management activities…without being subject to taxation in your jurisdiction.”
All five questions seem to show a concern with secrecy, the ability to not pay taxes, and the stability of any tax-avoiding arrangement.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously insisted to the US Congress that, “We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar. We do not depend on tax gimmicks…we do not stash money on some Caribbean island.”
Apple ended up controlling two of its Irish subsidiaries from Jersey for around a year. The BBC suggests that the company may have used this arrangement to sell its intellectual-property rights back to Ireland from the Jersey subsidiary. A move like that could allow Apple to offset $13 billion in taxes per year for the next 15 years on any income earned in Ireland, the New York Times reports (paywall).
Apple told the BBC the arrangement didn’t lower its taxes, saying that the company is the world’s biggest taxpayer, and insisting it had followed the law.