In what seems to be a huge turnaround, Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company plans to bring back billions of dollars in profit to the U.S. next year.
Cook’s statement, made during an interview with RTE radio Thursday, contradicts his previous public statements on the issue: He has said for years that U.S. corporate taxes are too high, and that the Silicon Valley company wouldn’t be repatriating profit until its home country changed its tax code.
“Right now I would forecast that we repatriate next year,” Cook said, saying that the company has “provisioned several billion” for that purpose.
The interview with Irish radio was about this week’s European Commission judgment, which found that Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple were illegal. The commission found that Apple had paid as little as 0.005 percent to 1 percent in taxes there, and ordered Ireland to collect the equivalent of $14.5 billion in back taxes. Cook said Apple will appeal the decision, which he called “maddening.”
Ireland — whose low corporate tax rates are a lure to other multinationals such as Google and Facebook — may also appeal the commission’s decision.
The decision has rankled the United States, which wants its share of the tax pie. After all, U.S. corporations were holding more than $2 trillion in profit overseas in 2014, according to a 2015 study by Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. Apple had the biggest overseas stash then at $181 billion; the company said in July that its offshore pile had reached about $215 billion.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week that Europe’s Apple judgment is effectively “a transfer of revenue from U.S. taxpayers to the EU.”
The U.S. has a corporate tax rate of 35 percent, and state and local governments also want their share. In December, Cook said during a “60 Minutes” appearance that bringing profit back to the U.S. “would cost me 40 percent.” He told interviewer Charlie Rose: “This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America.”
Cook did not indicate during this week’s radio interview what had changed — a proposal by President Obama in 2015 to change the tax code and lower corporate rates was rejected by Republicans — and how much Apple plans to repatriate.
Cook also said that in 2014, Apple paid $400 million in taxes in Ireland and $400 million to the United States.
Apple has not responded to SiliconBeat’s request for comment.