Average West Virginians can't sneak their money into foreign shelters to duck U.S. taxes -- but billionaires and rich corporations, with their high-priced lawyers and accountants, do so constantly.
This week, a U.S. Senate committee held a hearing on Apple Inc. Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Apple avoided $9 billion in obligations last year by using offshore gimmicks to elude America's 35 percent corporate tax rate. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Apple "one of the biggest tax-avoiders in America."
Apple CEO Tim Cook testified that the huge cyber corporation pays "every single dollar" owed to the U.S. Treasury and that it doesn't shift profits offshore. Columnist Joe Nocera called his testimony "a flat-out lie" because Apple keeps U.S. patents in Ireland as a ploy. He explained:
"Apple is as much an innovator in tax-avoidance as it is in technology. Take, for instance, the scheme known as the Double Irish, which it largely invented and which many American companies have since replicated. This strategy ... involves setting up a shell subsidiary in an offshore tax haven -- aka Ireland -- and transferring most of Apple's intellectual property rights to the dummy subsidiary. The subsidiary, in turn, charges 'royalties' that allow it to capture billions of dollars in what otherwise would have been taxable profits in the United States. In Ireland, according to Apple, it pays an astonishing 2 percent in taxes, thanks to a deal it has with the government."
Sen. Levin added:
"The intellectual property and patents are the crown jewels of the company. The Irish subsidiary had nothing to do with creating those crown jewels. It has no employees. It has no offices. Yet most of Apple's profits are now offshore ...."
This trick is so clever it almost invites applause -- until you realize that other U.S. taxpayers must make up the $9 billion that Apple didn't pay last year. The firm fleeced America out of $9 billion that could have benefited Americans in many ways.Sen. Levin has drafted a bill to outlaw the Double Irish. We hope all West Virginia members of Congress support it -- and also support every other measure to prevent the rich from avoiding their obligations as U.S. citizens.