Apple announced a roughly $10 billion annual dividend and a share buy-back program, designed to make use of their hundreds of billions in cash reserves. They estimate it will cost about $45 billion over the next three years. It was a fairly conservative decision by the computer maker, which would still see their reserves grow over the next several years. And they are allowing that to continue for nakedly political reasons.
Apple made an aggressive pitch for a corporate tax holiday Monday, stressing that it plans to keep more than $60 billion parked offshore until Congress makes it easier for companies to bring those profits home.
The warning from the nation’s most valuable company came as Apple announced it would pay a dividend to shareholders and buy back stock, moves that will cost about $45 billion over three years.
But Apple — which, like several other Silicon Valley titans, has spent months lobbying for more flexibility to repatriate offshore profits — said it will rely exclusively on domestic cash reserves for the transactions and will not touch the billions in profits held abroad.
“Repatriating the cash from offshore would result in significant tax consequences under current U.S. law,” Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said on a conference call.
Apple has been among the many companies angling for a repatriation tax holiday, where they could bring back their profits stashed overseas for free. They and other large corporations have spent millions lobbying for this change. And with this announcement, they’re basically using their leverage as the largest company in America to hold the country ransom and keep $60 billion in potential economic activity offshore.
This is exactly what we should have expected after the initial repatriation tax holidays years ago. Having seen that they can bend Congress to their will, corporations get greedy and want to make it happen again. The result is that the initial repatriation tax holiday did not increase revenue in the long term. It actually reduced it, because it encouraged corporations to offshore more profits and muscle Capitol Hill to let them bring back the money for free again.
The other part of this is that Apple will not use their domestic reserves to invest in people or equipment or hire more workers. They’re using it for dividends and stock buybacks, which not coincidentally is how corporations used repatriated money back in 2004. So the argument that the repatriation holiday will lead to job creation makes no sense whatsoever. Higher demand, and pretty much only higher demand, will lead to job creation.
So you have this spectacle of Apple, the richest company in the country and possibly the world, saying that they cannot survive a big tax bill on their massive profits, the same day that they announce a $45 billion program in dividends and stock buybacks.
Now that’s thinking different.