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On Monday, Apple™ announced that it will distribute tens of billions of its cash holdings as dividends to shareholders, ending speculation over how the company will use the large pile of cash it has been sitting on. CFO Peter Oppenheimer went out of his way to point out that the dividends would be paid entirely from Apple’s U.S. cash, which means the $54 billion Apple has stashed in foreign countries will stay there. Oppenheimer explained that “repatriating cash from overseas would result in significant tax consequences under U.S. law.”

He’s not kidding! CTJ has estimated that Apple has paid a tax rate of just over three percent on this stash of “foreign” earnings, a clear indicator that much of this cash is likely parked in offshore tax havens and has never been taxed by any government. If Apple brought this cash back to the U.S., they’d likely pay something close to the 35 percent corporate tax rate that the law prescribes. The resulting $17 billion tax payment would be more than double the $8.3 billion in federal taxes that Apple has paid on its $83 billion in worldwide profits – over the last 11 years.

Apple is part of the Win America Coalition that’s been lobbying hard for a repatriation holiday (a.k.a. tax amnesty) which would allow them to bring back those unrepatriated profits at a super-low tax rate. But that would only encourage U.S. multinational corporations to shift even more profits offshore in anticipation of the next holiday.

Apple’s CFO was astonishingly blunt: “we do not want to incur the tax cost.”  Rather than shirking its basic obligation to help pay for the public goods that contribute to its extraordinary success, Apple’s executives might want to “think different” about its tax dodging ways before its devoted consumers start thinking differently about their favorite high-tech brand.

Photo of Apple Logo via Marko Pako Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0