The Paradise Papers have revealed that Apple has a secretive new structure that would enable it to continue avoiding billions in taxes.
The leaked documents also show how the world’s most profitable company sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax practices by actively shopping around for a tax haven.
Apple then moved the company holding most of its untaxed offshore cash, now $252 billion, to the Channel Island of Jersey.
The company said the new structure had not lowered its taxes.
Apple said it remained the world’s largest taxpayer, paying about $35 billion in corporation tax over the past three years, that it had followed the law and its changes “did not reduce our tax payments in any country”.
The Paradise Papers is the name for a huge leak of financial documents that is throwing light on the world of offshore finance.
Up until 2014, Apple had been exploiting a loophole in tax laws in the US and the Republic of Ireland known as the “double Irish”.
This allowed Apple to funnel all its sales outside of the Americas – currently about 55% of its revenue – through Irish subsidiaries that were effectively stateless for taxation purposes, and so incurred hardly any tax.
Instead of paying Irish corporation tax of 12.5%, or the US rate of 35%, Apple’s avoidance structure helped it reduce its tax rate on profits outside of the US to the extent that its foreign tax payments rarely amounted to more than 5% of its foreign profits, and in some years dipped below 2%.
The European Commission calculated the rate of tax for one of Apple’s Irish companies for one year had been just 0.005%.
The tech giant came under pressure in 2013 in the US Senate, when CEO Tim Cook was forced to defend its tax system.
After the EU announced in 2013 that it was investigating Apple’s Irish arrangement, Ireland’s government decided that companies incorporated there could no longer be stateless for tax purposes.
In order to keep its tax rates low, Apple needed to find an offshore financial center that would serve as the tax residency for its Irish subsidiaries.
In March 2014, Apple’s legal advisers sent a questionnaire to Appleby, a leading offshore finance law firm and source of much of the Paradise Papers leak.
They asked what benefits different offshore jurisdictions – the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Mauritius, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey – could offer Apple.
The questionnaire included key questions such as was it possible to “obtain an official assurance of tax exemption” and could it be confirmed that an Irish company might “conduct management activities… without being subject to taxation in your jurisdiction”.
The document also asked whether a change of government was likely, what information would be visible to the public and how easy it would be to exit the jurisdiction.
The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that reveals how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use offshore structures to protect their cash from higher taxes.
There are more than 1,400GB of data, containing about 13.4 million documents. Some 6.8 million come from the offshore legal service provider Appleby and corporate services provider Estera. The two operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. Another six million documents come from corporate registries in some 19 jurisdictions, mostly in the Caribbean. A smaller amount comes from the Singapore-based international trust and corporate services provider, Asiaciti Trust. The leaked data covers seven decades, from 1950 to 2016.
As with 2016 Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)to oversee the investigation. Nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers.
The Paradise Papers name was chosen because of the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled, including Bermuda, the HQ of the main company involved, Appleby. It also dovetails nicely with the French term for a tax haven – paradis fiscal.
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The offshore financial affairs of hundreds of politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals, some of them household names, have been revealed. The papers also throw light on the legal firms, financial institutions and accountants working in the sector and on the jurisdictions that adopt offshore tax rules to attract money. The top stories so far include:
One of President Donald Trump’s top administration officials kept a financial stake in a company whose major partners include a Russian company part-owned by President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law
A key aide of Canada’s PM has been linked to offshore schemes that may have cost the nation millions of dollars in taxes, threatening to embarrass Justin Trudeau, who has campaigned to shut tax havens
How questions were raised about who is controlling Everton FC
An oligarch with close links to the Kremlin may have secretly taken ownership of a company responsible for anti-money laundering checks on Russian cash
Appleby is alaw firm that helps corporations, financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals set up and register companies in offshore jurisdictions.
With its headquarters in Bermuda and a history dating back to the 1890s, Appleby has become one of the largest and best known of about 10 major companies involved in the specialist arena. The leak shows the US dominates Appleby’s client register, with more than 31,000 US addresses for clients.
Details about the Duchy’s investments came to light in the Paradise Papers – a leak of 13.4 million documents from companies including Appleby, one of the world’s leading offshore law firms.
The two funds were based in British overseas territories with no corporation tax and at the center of the offshore financial industry.
However, the Duchy said it was not aware there were tax advantages to it from investing in offshore funds, adding that tax strategy was not a part of the estate’s investment policy.
The documents show the Duchy of Lancaster put £5 million ($6.5 million) in the Jubilee Absolute Return Fund Limited in Bermuda in 2004, with the investment coming to an end in 2010.
In 2005, the Duchy agreed to put $7.5 million in the Dover Street VI Cayman Fund LP.
The Paradise Papers show the fund invested in medical and technology companies.
The connection to rent-to-buy company BrightHouse began in 2007 when the US company running the fund asked the Duchy to contribute $450,000 to five projects, including the purchase of the two UK High Street retailers.
This included an interest in London-based private equity firm Vision Capital, the company which acquired 100% of BrightHouse and 75% of the owners of Threshers off license chain.