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Apple Dodges Enough Taxes to Cover Much of the Sequester

Apple Store, New York, Fifth Avenue. (Photo: Preston Kemp)

The scheme that Apple cooked up this week to finance a $55 billion stock buyback for its shareholders was orchestrated to avoid paying $9.2 billion in taxes, Bloomberg reported Friday.

That $9.2 billion tax bill that Apple dodged would have been enough to make unnecessary all of the major budget cuts we’ve been writing about this week as part of our “Repeal the Sequester” campaign. With $9.2 billion, the federal government could have (based on lists compiled by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog and Think Progress):

  • Paid for rescinding the furloughs of air traffic controllers without raiding $250 million from an airport improvement fund.
  • Restored Head Start funding to avoid having to kick an estimated 70,000 people out of the program this year.
  • Kept Meals on Wheels funding for seniors intact.
  • Restored National Institutes of Health funding, so that research on cancer treatments and other diseases could continue uninterrupted.
  • Rescinded cuts of up to 10.7 percent in unemployment checks to people who have been looking for work for more than six months without success.
  • Kept paying for public housing assistance and housing vouchers for people who might otherwise be homeless or in substandard living conditions.
  • Rescinded cuts in programs for children with special needs and learning disabilities.
  • Kept already stretched Occupational Safety and Health inspectors on the job, doing the 1,200 workplace inspections that are being shelved by sequestration.
  • Fully funded disaster relief programs, a particularly critical need now that a wildfire is currently causing serious damage in southern California.
  • Restored $480 million now cut from the FBI’s operations.
  • Kept intact the federal programs responsible for safeguarding our nuclear weapons.
  • Avoided cutting $770 million in various State Department health and economic aid programs, plus another $650 million in funding for diplomatic activities.
  • Fully funded NASA operations, which would have been a boon to central Florida and to Texas communities already hurting because of the end of the space shuttle program.

Apple was able to do this because of techniques it uses to keep its U.S.-made profits offshore, and because of provision in the tax code that allows it to deduct interest it pays on money it borrows. That’s a double whammy: It does not pay the taxes it should on the money it earns from all of those i-whatevers we buy (including the Macbook Pro I am using to type this post) and it gets money from the government when it borrows money from a big bank rather than using the money from its overseas stockpile.

Apple makes great products, but the obscenity of its use of the tax code to avoid paying its fair share for the functions of government that make its success possible is only exceeded by the tax code itself and the nexus of ideology and corporate greed that created it. This latest news from Apple underscores the need to end corporate tax evasion – not with lobbyist-written schemes like the “territorial tax” that would essentially engrave offshore tax dodging into the tax code but with fair, more progressive tax structures that require corporations to pay taxes on their earnings just as working people must by April 15 every year.

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