The Paradise Papers have shed light on Apple’s shifting strategy for taking advantage of offshore tax rules. The New York Times, The Guardian, and BBC News all have reports detailing how, in 2014, Apple moved two subsidiaries from Ireland to Jersey, described by The Guardian as “a crown dependency of the UK, which makes its own laws and is not subject to most EU legislation, making it a popular tax haven.” Jersey, according to the Times, “typically does not tax corporate income.”
Apple sought a new tax shelter when the European Union began pressuring Ireland to fix loopholes (including the “Double Irish”) that had for years so effectively drawn mega-corporations to form subsidiaries and shell companies there because of the country’s minimal corporate tax rate and business-friendly tax regime.
Apple has over 6,000 employees in Ireland and has long insisted it pays everything it legally owes in taxes. “When Ireland changed its tax laws in 2015, we complied by changing the residency of our Irish subsidiaries and we informed Ireland, the European commission and the United States,” a spokesperson told the Times. “The changes we made did not reduce our tax payments in any country.” The company says it’s the world’s largest taxpayer. “We’ve paid over $35 billion in corporate income taxes over the past three years, plus billions of dollars more in property tax, payroll tax, sales tax and VAT. We believe every company has a responsibility to pay the taxes they owe and we’re proud of the economic contributions we make to the countries and communities where we do business.
But in preparation for a change to Ireland’s tax policy, Apple recruited a Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby, for advice on where to next move its offshore tax residency. Appleby specializes in helping clients lower their tax burden, and this search for the ideal tax haven is common practice among multinational companies in constant pursuit of the best (lowest) tax rate. Two of Apple's key Irish subsidiaries, Apple Operations International (AOI) and Apple Sales International (ASI), were managed in Jersey as of early 2015, according to the leaked documents. AOI is believed to manage Apple’s enormous overseas cash pile.
On Monday evening, Apple further responded to the reports with a press release on its website titled “The facts about Apple’s tax payments.” The statement reiterates Apple’s desire for comprehensive tax reform, but also addresses today’s reports directly. “Apple’s subsidiary which holds overseas cash became resident in the UK Crown dependency of Jersey, specifically to ensure that tax obligations and payments to the US were not reduced,” the company said. “Since then Apple has paid billions of dollars in US tax on the investment income of this subsidiary. There was no tax benefit for Apple from this change and, importantly, this did not reduce Apple’s tax payments or tax liability in any country.
Last year, the European Commission ordered Ireland to collect back taxes of up to $14.5 billion from Apple, finding that the previous arrangement between the two sides amounted to “illegal state aid.” But Ireland hasn’t yet done so. In October, the EU announced it would be taking Ireland to court over the delay. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called the ruling "total political crap" and says there’s "no reason for it in fact or in law".