Losing the Double Irish Won’t Make Much Difference To Apple’s Taxes
There’s been a great deal of confusion over the years about Apple’s tax, what it pays, what it doesn’t and how it doesn’t. And there’s now been a change in the law that will impact, a bit, on one of the ways that it doesn’t pay tax. However, it’s not going to make all that much difference in the long run:
US companies including Apple and Google could be hit with demands for billions of dollars after Ireland yesterday unveiled plans to close the ‘Double Irish’ tax loophole.
However, a new tax break and pressure to tackle avoidance elsewhere in the world means US companies are unlikely to depart from the struggling eurozone economy.
Analysts and tax advisers predict that corporations which need access to the European Union’s 500 million consumers will find it difficult to set up equally effective schemes in other member states, as Brussels investigates other arrangements that involve paying minimal tax rates
No one’s going to move out of the EU over this, that’s obviously true.
But it’s worth thinking through what Apple used to do. The most important thing is that Apple hasn’t actually dodged any tax at all: it’s only delayed the date at which it might have to pay it. Yes, all the money they make in Europe ends up in Ireland and Ireland doesn’t tax it very much (the tax rate is about 2%) and the money ends up sitting in Bermuda, having paid very little tax at all.
But, and here’s the thing, Apple isn’t home and free, not just yet. Because in the end it wants to get those profits into the hands of the shareholders, the people who own the company. That’s what companies are for, to feed profits to the shareholders. and to do that Apple must move that money into the US: that’s just how the system works. And once it does that Apple will pay the 35% US corporate income tax, minus that 2% already paid. There is no way out of this: if Apple is to give the profits to the shareholders, which is what a company is form, then it will have to pay US corporate income tax.
So, the worst we can say is that Apple has delayed having to pay tax, it’s not got away without paying it at all.
This recent change does mean that Apple can’t use exactly the method it has been to do this. But there are plenty of other options (this is all about royalties for the use of the Apple name and technology, to add a bit of boring detail), for example, Holland has a 5% tax rate for royalties. So, instead of the Double Irish Apple could use the Dutch Sandwich instead. And that would mean a 5% tax rate, which is indeed higher than 2% but it’s still a lot less than 35%. So, we’ll still see those profits being parked offshore, just through a different network of companies this time.
Things will change, yes, but not very much.