Apple Would Get a $47 Billion Windfall Under Tax Reform
The impending tax reform package is expected to lower rates across corporate America, but one company—Apple—will get a significantly bigger one-time tax cut than anyone else.
According to economists consulted by the Financial Times (subscription required), the iPhone maker stands to see tax liabilities related to its overseas cash hoard decline to $29.3 billion from $78.6 billion.
That savings of $47.3 billion is an amount of money greater than the market value of many Fortune 500 companies and, as the FT notes, exceeds the annual profits of any other U.S. company.
Apple currently has $252 billion in foreign cash and investments. The $47 billion figure is based on the company repatriating all of that under the Senate’s current tax proposal, which would lower the corporate tax rate to 14.5% from 35% for overseas earnings. (It also takes account of a 7.5% rate for overseas earnings that have been reinvested and assumes Apple will not recover a disputed 13 billion euros in back taxes it owes to Ireland).
Under the proposed law, Apple would only have to repatriate a part of its foreign cash. The FT’s economist says the company’s immediate tax bill to the U.S. Treasury would be $31 billion or $29 billion depending on the outcome of the Ireland dispute.
It’s notable that, unlike other companies, Apple has already set aside a large amount to cover such liabilities—and that it would likely book a profit if it must repatriate part of its overseas cash. As the FT notes:
Unlike most other US multinationals, Apple has already taken billions of dollars of charges in past years to reflect its potential taxes. It has set aside $36.4bn for those bills — more than the tax charge it is now likely to face — and would likely record the difference as a one-off profit.
All of this, of course, is contingent on several things, including whether the Senate can reconcile its bill with the House’s version, and deliver a final version of the law for President Trump’s signature.
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If the tax law is passed, it would also raise the question of how much of the potential tax savings are baked into Apple’s current share price—a question explored in detail by colleague Shawn Tully here.
There is also the matter of how the tax plan will affect Apple in the long term. Contrary to other industries, the share price of tech companies, including Apple, has dropped in light of other changes to the tax rules that make it harder to move profits overseas.