Apple will pay US$38 billion in taxes on repatriated profits as it moves investments to the US

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 6:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 January, 2018, 6:25am

Apple announced on Wednesday it would pay some US$38 billion (HK$297 billion) in taxes – likely the largest payment of its kind – on profits repatriated from overseas as it boosts investments in the United States.

The iPhone maker said in a statement it plans to use some of its foreign cash stockpile, which qualifies for reduced tax rates under a recent bill, to invest in new projects.

Apple, which claims to be the largest US taxpayer, is also one of the largest beneficiaries of a tax bill passed by Congress in December which lowers the rate of repatriated profits to around 15 per cent and cut the corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent.

The tech giant had built a stockpile of more than US$250 billion (HK$1.9 trillion) in overseas holdings, claiming it was not in the interests of shareholders to repatriate the money with a 35 per cent tax rate.

Apple said it will now use a large chunk of the overseas cash for US investments.

“Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the US economy,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

“We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness.

“We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.”

One of those investments would to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a US$350 billion (HK$2.7 trillion) commitment to the US that will be partially financed by an upcoming windfall from the country’s new tax law.

It said it expects to invest over US$30 billion (HK$234 billion) in direct capital expenditures in the US over the next five years.

One of those major investments will be second major campus dedicated to customer support.

Apple, which just spent an estimated US$5 billion (HK$39 billion) building a Cupertino, California, headquarters that resembles a giant spaceship, plans to announce the location of the second campus later this year.

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The company did not say how big the campus will be, or how many of the additional 20,000 workers that it plans to hire will be based there.

One thing is certain: Cities from across the US will likely be offering the company tax breaks and other incentives in an attempt to persuade the company to build its second campus in their towns.

That was what happened last year after Amazon announced it would build a second headquarters in North America to expand beyond its current Seattle home.

The online retailer received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the US, Canada and Mexico. Amazon is expected to announce the winning bid later this year.

The pledge by Apple comes less than a month after Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the US tax code championed by President Donald Trump that will increase corporate profits.

Besides dramatically lowering the standard corporate tax rate, the reforms offer a one-time break on cash being held overseas.

Apple plans to take advantage of that provision. Cook promised the company would do if it could avoid being taxed at the 35 per cent rate that had been in effect under the previous tax law.

Companies who bring back money stashed overseas this year will be taxed at a 15.5 per cent rate, below the new 21 per cent rate for US corporate profits under the new law.

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As a whole, corporate America has an estimated US$2.6 trillion in overseas cash, with most of that concentrated in the technology industry, with Apple sitting at the top of the heap.

Analysts have been predicting that most of the overseas profits coming back to the US would go into paying shareholder dividends and buying back stock.

That is what happened the last time a one-time break on offshore profits was offered more than a decade ago.

While Apple is likely to return some of its overseas money to its shareholders, Wednesday’s announcement is designed to be a show of faith in the US – the company’s largest market.

The public show of support also helps the optics of a company that will still continue to make most of its iPhones, iPads and other gadgets in factories located in China and other countries that offer cheaper labour.