A new study reveals Fortune 500 companies are holding nearly $2.5 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to pay less tax. Top is Apple which since 2009 funneled $214.9 billion to tax havens and would owe $65.4 billion if the profits returned to the US.
The report was published just weeks after a European investigation concluded Ireland provided Apple with a favorable tax rate which allowed the company to pay one percent on EU profits in 2003 down to 0.005 percent in 2014. Apple is now obliged to pay $14.5 billion in back taxes.
The $215 billion Apple booked offshore through three tax havens last year is bigger than the gross domestic product of Portugal, Greece or New Zealand. If the company returned the earnings to the US and paid the $65.4 billion in tax, it would have been more than economies of Belarus, Uruguay or Croatia.
According to the authors, the second biggest tax avoider is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with 181 offshore subsidiaries and almost $194 billion of profits booked offshore.
Number three is Microsoft with five tax haven subsidiaries and $124 billion of profits held offshore.
Sneaker giant Nike holds $10.7 billion offshore and would owe $3.6 billion in US taxes. One of the authors of the report, Citizens for Tax Justice, has noted that Nike’s offshore companies in Bermuda are named after its own brands, like Air Max Limited, Nike Cortez, Nike Flight, Nike Force, Nike Huarache, Nike Jump Ltd., Nike Lavadome, Nike Pegasus, Nike Tailwind and Nike Waffle.
Goldman Sachs holds $28.6 billion offshore, but “reports having 987 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, 537 of which are in the Cayman Islands despite not operating a single legitimate office in that country, according to its own website.”
Overall, if all the Fortune 500 companies paid taxes on their profits in the US, the country would get an additional $717.8 billion. In 2015, the US budget deficit stood at $438 billion.