Apple sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax structure by moving the majority of its offshore cash holdings to the small island of Jersey, a self-governed territory with loose ties to the United Kingdom, according to leaked financial documents obtained by The New York Times and BBC.
The so-called Paradise Papers, primarily sourced from offshore tax law firm Appleby, reveal that Apple’s two key Irish subsidiaries were managed from Appleby’s office in Jersey from 2015 until early 2016. Apple chose Jersey after exploring several potential tax havens, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
Apple said it made regulators in the United States and Ireland, and the European Commission, aware about the reorganization of its Irish subsidiaries, and added that the changes haven’t reduced its tax bill.
“The changes we made did not reduce our tax payments in any country,” an Apple spokesperson told The New York Times. “At Apple we follow the laws, and if the system changes we will comply. We strongly support efforts from the global community toward comprehensive international tax reform and a far simpler system.”
Apple turned to Jersey after European officials began to crack down on the so-called “Double Irish” tax structure Apple had exploited.
The “Double Irish” tax loophole allows for multinational corporations to funnel revenue through an Irish subsidiary, which in turn sends that money to another Irish subsidiary that has residency in a tax haven. In a nutshell, the practice has enabled Apple to save billions of dollars in taxes around the world.
The European Commission found Apple paid between 0.005 percent and 1 percent in taxes in Ireland from 2003 through 2014, compared to the country’s headline 12.5 percent corporate tax rate. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the Commission’s ruling against Apple was “total political crap” and that the tax rates were a “false number.”
When questioned by the United States Senate investigative subcommittee in 2013, Cook said “we pay all the taxes we owe.” He added that Apple doesn’t “stash money on some Caribbean island.”
While that was true at the time, it’s clear Apple was exploring similar options as part of its tax minimization efforts.
“This is how it usually works: You close one tax shelter, and something else opens up,” said Reuven Avi-Yonah, director of the international tax program at the University of Michigan Law School. “It just goes on endlessly.”
Cook has made it clear that Apple is willing to repatriate some of its offshore cash holdings into the United States, but he recently said tax reform is “sorely needed” first. U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed lowering the headline corporate tax rate to 20 percent, down from 35 percent currently.
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