Apple announced it was issuing bonds estimated in value at $12bn on Tuesday, despite a current cash reserve of $215bn.
The bond issue, the latest in a series of huge debt issues, will be used largely to return money to shareholders without repatriating any of the estimated $177bn it holds overseas at a tax rate lower than it would be charged in the US.
Reports indicate that US-based companies are offshoring some $2.1tn in cash between them; Google, Apple and Microsoft alone account for one-fifth of that wealth. Some firms have decided to begin bringing the previously tax-free cash back into the country as lawmakers begin to develop policies that disallow untaxed foreign liquidity.
Apple’s bond issuance – which is predicted to do well, given the current upheaval in the stock market and the company’s strong track record – appears to give the company another out.
The tech behemoth’s CEO, Tim Cook, has been voluble on the topic of whether the largest company in the world goes too far to avoid paying taxes on its income. “Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,” Cook told 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose in December. “I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do.”
According to Moody’s credit agency, the company avoided paying $9bn in taxes in 2012 alone using this strategy.
The latest debt issue comes amid an ongoing European Commission investigation into Apple’s use of Irish tax shelters could result in an $8bn tax bill.
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