Apple reportedly moved to the island tax haven Jersey in secret in the wake of the 2014 Irish tax crackdown, which saw the firm face severe criticism. Prior to this, a bipartisan US senate committee lambasted Apple for searching for a tax haven.
However, despite Apple CEO Tim Cook's vehement proclamation of Apple not stashing cash "on some Caribbean island," the Paradise Papers leaked documents apparently reveal how the tech giant responded to the international tax pressure by shopping for a new island haven.
The revelations come from a trove of secret files from Bermuda-based offshore law firm Appleby that provides services to the wealthiest people in the world. The cache of documents were reviewed by the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists), along with the New York Times and others and were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The Paradise Papers documents reportedly reveal that Apple was actively seeking a tax haven in early 2014. The tech giant's top lawyers approached Appleby, asking them to fill out a questionnaire highlighting the advantages of moving to various offshore jurisdictions. Apple also reportedly sought assurances about whether the local political climate would remain friendly over an extended period of time.
One of the 14 questions allegedly included in the questionnaire sent out by Apple's law firm Baker McKenzie read, "Are there any developments suggesting that the law may change in an unfavourable way in the foreseeable future?"
Apple eventually settled on the tiny island of Jersey, located in the English Channel between France and England. The move to Jersey reportedly helped Apple amass a massive $252bn (£191bn) of cash offshore as international governments tightened corporate tax loopholes. Although the island is a British dependency, the country has its own financial and legal system and is self-governing.
In response to the ICIJ's report on Apple's offshore tax activities, Apple released a statement of facts yesterday (6 November). "Apple believes every company has a responsibility to pay its taxes, and as the largest taxpayer in the world, Apple pays every dollar it owes in every country around the world. We're proud of the economic contributions we make to the countries and communities where we do business," the firm said.
Apple said that none of its operations or investments were moved from Ireland and that any changes made to its corporate structure "were specially designed to preserve its tax payments to the United States, not to reduce its taxes anywhere else".
However, according to the Paradise Papers documents, since the beginning of 2015 to early 2016, two of Apple's Irish subsidiaries — Apple Operations International (AOI) and Apple Sales International (ASI) were managed from Jersey. This in turn allegedly allowed the tech giant to continue avoiding paying billions in tax across the globe.
However, Apple's statement vehemently argues that as one of the largest global tax-paying corporations, the firm strictly complies to changes in law, paying taxes wherever it is owed.
"As the largest taxpayer in the world we've paid over $35 billion in corporate income taxes over the past three years, plus billions of dollars more in property tax, payroll tax, sales tax and VAT," the tech giant said. "Under the current international tax system, profits are taxed based on where the value is created. The taxes Apple pays to countries around the world are based on that principle. The vast majority of the value in our products is indisputably created in the United States — where we do our design, development, engineering work and much more — so the majority of our taxes are owed to the US."