Turns out that Apple might be paying about 10% of its pre-tax income in taxes as compared to a 35 percent federal corporate tax rate. However, details of Apple’s tax practices indicate that there Apple engages in merely tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is not quite unlawful. There seems to be no evidence that Apple engaged in tax evasion, which is indeed unlawful.
Apple uses a tax avoidance scheme known as The Double Irish, which came under scrutiny during the Senate testimony. Using the Double Irish scheme, Apple instituted a shell subsidiary in Ireland, an offshore tax haven, and assigned the majority its intellectual property rights to this shell subsidiary. In turn, the subsidiary charges fees and royalties and receives billions of dollars in revenue. On these receipts, Apple pays about 2% in corporate taxes in Ireland instead of the high tax rates it would pay for the same receipts in the United States.
It can be argued that the Apple’s management is indeed doing what is best for Apple’s shareholders. Apple’s senior management and the board have a fiduciary responsibility to do anything in the best interest of its shareholders, as long as such actions are lawful. Had Apple ignored this prospect of reducing its corporate tax bill by using the Double Irish scheme, the senior management and Board may possibly be accused of being negligent in their responsibilities towards shareholders.
The actual problem might just be that the Congress hasn’t taken any wide-ranging measures to make all tax avoidance schemes illegal and ensure that companies pay their fair share in taxes.