Apple’s Fine From The EU Might Be As Much As …..Umm, 200 Million?
The European Commission has now released its document about why and how it thinks that Apple has been playing hooky with the Irish tax system. And it’s a real joy for connoiseurs of the intricacies of bureaucracy and taxation. Essentially, what the EU is saying is that the profits Apple made actually in Ireland were not properly taxed. And that, if they can prove that, then Apple must pay over to Ireland the tax that they should have paid.
The thing is, even if the EU manages to prove all of this then the likely amount that Apple will pay is $200 million or so. Yes, that’s all:
Apple set aside about $12 billion for U.S. federal and state income taxes in fiscal 2013, on sales of $62.7 billion in the Americas, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, which doesn’t break down revenue by country, set aside just $1.1 billion for foreign income taxes over the same period, on sales outside the Americas of about $88 billion. It reported foreign pretax earnings of $30.5 billion that fiscal year.
Apple could be asked to pay up to $200 million in back taxes, said Heather Self, a tax partner at Pinsent Masons LLP in London. She said the company could also agree to pay a smaller amount to settle—or pay nothing if Ireland offers a robust defense.
And another estimation:
Seamus Coffey, an economics lecturer at University College Cork, who has examined Apple’s Irish tax affairs, said: “The EC can demand back payments for 10 years, which would take it back to 2004.”
Figures in the commission’s calculation show that the relevant Apple subsidiaries – Apple Operations Europe and Apple Sales Europe – had annual profits of between €60m and €80m between 2009 and 2012, and annual revenues of between €500m and €680m.
“You’re taxed on profits, not revenues, but even if the EC said that all that revenue was pure profit, then over 10 years it would owe the Irish tax rate of 12.5% on about €6.8bn – that’s about €850m,” said Coffey. However, Coffey said a more likely figure would be 12.5% on total profits over the 10 years of perhaps €800m, amounting to €100m.
Well, the EU itself says back to 2003 but that’s trivia. The point being that over this same period of time Apple has made profits of around $150 billion (yes, that’s billion) and having to fork over another $100 million really isn’t going to be anything they’ll worry too much about.
As to why the sum is so small, it’s because the tax bill in Ireland is only on whatever profits come from actually doing business in Ireland. It’s a so called “territorial tax” system. So all of the vast profits Apple has been making by selling in the UK, and Germany, and Italy and so on and on don’t come into the Irish tax question at all.
This is, at worst, a pinprick, nothing more.