Apple expects to pay US$38 billion tax on repatriated cash

Apple plans to invest tens of billions on domestic jobs, manufacturing and data centres.
Apple plans to invest tens of billions on domestic jobs, manufacturing and data centres.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Apple said it will bring hundreds of billions of overseas dollars back to the US, pay about US$38 billion (S$50 billion)  in taxes on the money and spend tens of billions on domestic jobs, manufacturing and data centres in the coming years.

The iPhone maker plans capital expenditures of US$30 billion in the US over five years and will create 20,000 new jobs at existing sites and a new campus it intends to open, the Cupertino, California-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Apple’s shares rose 1.7 per cent to a record closing price of US$179.10 in New York.

“We are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness,” chief executive officer Tim Cook said in the statement, which alluded to unspecified plans by the company to accelerate education programmes.

Apple also told employees Wednesday that it’s issuing stock-based bonuses worth US$2,500 each following the new US tax law, according to people familiar with the matter.

In its December approval of the most extensive tax-code revisions since 1986, Congress scrapped the previous international tax system for corporations – an unusual arrangement that allowed companies to defer US income taxes on foreign earnings until they returned the income to the US. That “deferral” provision led companies to stockpile an estimated US$3.1 trillion offshore and many were criticised for the moves, including Apple.

By switching to a new system that’s designed to focus on domestic economic activity, congressional tax writers also imposed a two-tiered levy on that accumulated foreign income: Cash will be taxed at 15.5 per cent, less liquid assets at 8 per cent. Companies can pay over eight years.

Apple is the first major US technology company to act on the new tax law and it joins others, such as Intel, in responding to criticism by President Donald Trump and others that corporations have been ignoring American workers and manufacturing. Job creation was a key pillar of Trump’s election campaign. That means the new positions created by Apple are likely to have a more significant political impact than its US$38 billion tax payment, according to Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“The thrust here is American jobs, jobs on American soil, build manufacturing here, don’t build everything in China,” Gordon said. “You can’t have an announcement of a million jobs. But you can have companies like Apple saying that we’re going to have 20,000 new jobs here. If other companies say they’re going to have new jobs too, it does add up.”

Apple has the largest offshore cash reserves of any US company, with about US$252 billion at the end of September, the most recently reported fiscal quarter. The tax rate indicates that Apple is likely bringing back a majority of its overseas cash back to the US, leaving only a small portion for international investments like retail stores.

“They’re going to have well over US$200 billion by the end of this year that will be available for incremental investments, capital returns and M&A,” said Matthew Kanterman, a New York-based Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The new tax law lets Ucompanies bring overseas cash reserves back home in one year and pay the resulting tax bill over eight years. “And Apple hasn’t historically done big M&A,” he said.

The US$30 billion in capital expenditures will come as part of US$350 billion that Apple expects to spend in the US over the next five years. The 20,000 new jobs include additional Apple employees at its campuses, data centres, and retail stores, but not third-party developers for iPhone and Mac apps, an economy Apple has touted in the past.

Apple said that part of the US$30 billion in capital expenditures will go towards a new US-based campus, new data centres and additional supplier investments. The company, which opened a new headquarters in Cupertino last year, said its new Usite initially will be focused on employees who provide technical support to Apple product users. The new location, which Apple said it will announce later this year, will be similar to the company’s existing campus in Austin, Texas, for supply-chain and technical-support employees.

Apple said it will increase its local manufacturing fund, announced last year, from US$1 billion to US$5 billion, indicating that it will be sourcing more components for its products domestically. As part of the original fund, Apple invested in Corning Inc. and Finisar Corp., companies that make components for iPhone glass screens and lasers for Face ID and AirPods, respectively.

“These are probably many capital expenditure initiatives and new site build-outs that Apple was already planning on doing regardless of repatriation,” said Michael Olson, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, who has the equivalent of a buy rating on the stock.

“What’s not said in this release is that there is more potential for increased buybacks for shareholders and acquisitions that might not have taken place if it were not for the cash influx from overseas,” Olson said. Apple typically provides updates on its share buyback programne when it announces second quarter earnings.hnical support employees.