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A Third Of Cash Is Held By 5 US Tech Companies (siliconbeat.com) 392

An anonymous reader writes: Moody's Investors Service released an analysis Friday that shows Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco Systems, and Oracle are sitting on $504 billion, which is roughly 30% of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015. Almost all of their earnings ($1.2 trillion) are stashed overseas in an effort to avoid paying taxes on moving profits back to the U.S. under the country's complex tax code. Apple has more than 90 percent of its money located outside of the U.S., according to its most recent filings. Moody's said in its report that "we expect that overseas cash balances will continue to grow unless tax laws are changed to encourage companies to repatriate money." Some of the other tech and Silicon Valley companies in the top 50 include Intel, Gilead Sciences, Facebook, Amazon, Qualcomm, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo.
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A Third Of Cash Is Held By 5 US Tech Companies

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  • by PrimeWaveZ ( 513534 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:43PM (#52152881)

    The responsibility it to the shareholder, no the government.

    • by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:50PM (#52152907) Homepage

      The responsibility it to the shareholder, no the government.

      Here I thought the responsibility of the tax code was to the voters.

      • The responsibility it to the shareholder, no the government.

        Here I thought the responsibility of the tax code was to the voters.

        Precisely. Voters are voting for things not in their interest exactly the way they always do.

        • The responsibility it to the shareholder, no the government.

          Here I thought the responsibility of the tax code was to the voters.

          Precisely. Politicians are voting for things not in the interest of their constituents exactly the way they always do. Constituents are being deprived of information and fed bread and circuses to distract them from the activity of the Politicians.

          One thing people in power know is to keep information away from the public. 2,600 years after being written, the majority of people know only what some twit paraphrased for them and called "The Republic".

          • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @05:06AM (#52154425)
            I disagree with the idea that "people in power" keep information from "The Public" that would enable them to discern their own best interest/

            Unfortunately "The Public" has been conditioned to ignore such information.

            As in: "everybody knows that the most affluent companies are successfully using tax loopholes to avoid paying large amounts of tax", but "The public" has been trained to respond with gems like: "It's 'legal' so it's Ok.", "You'll always lose out aagainst 'The Market'" and "Better the money stays with industry than 'Da Gubbamint', and "We don't want Big Government" and "It's da pooh - lie - tishuns what dunnit".

            And other gems of coherent well-informed thinking.

            The only thing "people in power" need to hide is repeated ("The Public has a short memory") authenticated videos ("The Public doesn't read") of themselves conspiring in the clearest, bluntest terms imaginable (or The Public won't catch on), to intentionally ("to The Public mere self-serving greed is Ok), illegally and maliciously deprive "The Public" of their rights.

            Now that's a pretty low bar to pass, don't you think?

            We'[ve had half a century of investigative journalism to tell us about ethical standards in commerce, the way industry can purchase influence, the way in which (i.m.h.o. especially Conservatives) have paved the way for the fullest expression of industry interests in politics and uncounted economic, legal, sociological, and political studies to underpin this and its effects.

            What The Public need (in order to catch on) is politics in the form of a reality show. Like errm ... a Trump interview?

      • Well, the voters approved a Constitution under which they have subsequently elected Congresspeople who have made laws (the tax code) that Apple follows. That's why Apple is being reported on for tax avoidaince and not being investigated for tax evasion. The voters also elected Presidents who appointed a Supreme Court who in turn have assured us that tax avoidance is perfectly legal and that no one has any patriotic duty to pay more tax than they are required to by law (see Gregory v. Helvering).

        But if we

    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:06PM (#52153001) Homepage

      No, the responsibility is to the corporation's charter, which may or may not indicate any responsibility to shareholders.

      • So here's Apple's. What was your point?

        Corporate Governance Guidelines
        The Board of Directors (the âoeBoardâ) of Apple Inc. (the âoeCorporationâ) has adopted these governance
        guidelines. The guidelines, in conjunction with the Corporationâ(TM)s articles of incorporation, bylaws, and
        the charters of the committees of the Board, form the framework of governance of the Corporation. The
        governance structure of the Corporation is designed to be a working structure for principled actions,
        eff

        • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @12:22AM (#52153817) Homepage

          My point is that the actual laws dictating an executive's responsibilities rarely care at all about the shareholders. Rather, they usually only require that the company follow its charter, and it's that charter that defines the goals, and that's usually done vaguely.

          In Apple's case, I don't see any definition of what the shareholders' interests are. It has been upheld in court that such a term can be construed to mean many things beside the often-assumed short-term profit goal [nytimes.com]. If Tim Cook thinks (and convinces the Board) that it's in shareholders' best interests to pay taxes to bring cash into the United States, then he can do so.

          In essence, my point is to question the point of the original comment. Corporations are beholden to the laws of their jurisdictions, and those laws (in the US) make them subject to their charters. Blaming shareholders and invoking the profit myth implies that somehow the executives are being forced to do something distasteful, whether it's outsourcing or polluting or keeping foreign cash. The reality is that the executives have a wide range of options, and usually they only have to make a passable justification like "our polled shareholders said they care about the environment, so we're spending billions of dollars to have recycling in all facilities".

          The myth essentially shifts the blame from the corporate executives to "the system". It's the same as the hippies' stereotypical disgust with The Man, the modern rebels' jealousy of the 1%, the historic persecution of Jews, and the vilifying of banks. Rather than a specific mechanism to effect change, such as participating in a shareholder poll or vote, the myth provides a vague target for outrage that the masses can rally against, feeling good about their impotent rebellion. It satisfies a craving to be a noble warrior in a community of fellow underdogs, fighting against a powerful oppressor... but it doesn't require the drudgery of actually changing anything.

          • Unless you are very, very wealthy (part of that 1% you mentioned) then you don't own enough shares to prevent your vote from being drowned out by the major stockholders. And if you're part of 45% (at least, depends on how you run the numbers) you don't own any stock. Hell, 66% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, so I'm guessing there's not a lot of stock buying going on there unless you're one of those twats that counts a 401k as 'owning' stock.

            Here's the thing: Yes, we should work to enact change.
    • Yes, and the responsibility of the government should be to its citizens, not corporations.

      • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:26PM (#52153113)

        Yes, and the responsibility of the government should be to its citizens, not corporations.

        Because, of course, the people who form a business and incorporate it ... they're couldn't possibly be citizens. And the teachers, welders, farmers, retirees and everyone else who decide to invest some money in a publicly traded company, no chance those are citizens. Nope. The companies are all owned and run by non-human invisible evil ghost people, or AI machines in the basement.

        • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:30PM (#52153129)

          So, essentially, government AND businesses should only be concerned with those that can invest money. Anyone else simply doesn't count.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            So, essentially, government AND businesses should only be concerned with those that can invest money. Anyone else simply doesn't count.

            Historically, yes.

          • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:49PM (#52153223)
            What's with the false dichotomy? Are you really unable to imagine a government that isn't hostile to people who start businesses, and isn't hostile to the investments your mom makes for her retirement? Can you only imagine that it's either that, or a confiscatory socialist utopia that finally doles enough stuff out to the little people ... and nobody will worry about where that money is supposed to come from?
        • Yes, the point is that there are far more citizens who are not either founders or shareholders in corporations than there are in the other camp.

          The government has a duty to those people as well as to the ones who do own companies. That is being taken vastly out of balance in the US.

          • The government has a duty to those people as well as to the ones who do own companies.

            And what is that duty? To tear down the people who found and run companies so they can, one time, dole out the carcasses? Or is it to foster a much more entrepreneurial environment that isn't so hostile to people running (and working for!) businesses so that we can see more people get out of the low end of the spectrum? It's not the government's job to "balance" incomes by taking it from one person and giving it to another. It's the government's job to stay out of the way of the things that produce competi

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )

              And what is that duty? To tear down the people who found and run companies so they can, one time, dole out the carcasses?

              You can read books by people other than Rand you know :)

        • Because, of course, the people who form a business and incorporate it ... they're couldn't possibly be citizens.

          Given that this very article discusses the lengths they go to to avoid their duties as citizens... no. They're parasites who demand things yet use every loophole to avoid giving anything in return.

          Don't put on the airs of a citizen if the only loyalty you have is to your wallet.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The responsibility it to the shareholder, no the government.

      Corporations are artificial entities defined and governed by laws and regulations which are in turn created by the government. A corporation's responsibility is whatever the government says it is. If government insists the corporation pay taxes it is the responsibility of the corporation is to pay taxes. The corporations can't just say "we'd rather pay the stockholders, so sod off."

      In other words the problem isn't that the government can't compel the corporations to pay taxes. It's that it doesn't want

  • Trump wants to legalize companies to bring in that money into the USA without having to pay taxes. Basically a big present he'll give them.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:55PM (#52152939)

      vs. the alternative, to continue letting them keep it out of the USA while occasionally moaning during a press conference about how unfair it all is. That's the Obama doctrine Hillary has vowed to uphold.

      • With much of the EU going into negative interest rates, keeping it in the bank, even at 0% inflation, will be a money-loser. Give it time, they'll have to bring it back.
        • by geoskd ( 321194 )

          With much of the EU going into negative interest rates, keeping it in the bank, even at 0% inflation, will be a money-loser. Give it time, they'll have to bring it back.

          As opposed to the 30% tax rate for bringing it back, did you even think about that before you said it, or are you just bad at math?

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          At some point these overseas tax havens will start charging serious points for keeping the money out of the US tax man. It's obviously in their best interest to make keeping it in their country cheaper than paying taxes but there's always some risk of losing a significant chunk for political reasons where the US taxes are unpleasant but better than being bled out overseas.

        • With much of the EU going into negative interest rates, keeping it in the bank, even at 0% inflation, will be a money-loser. Give it time, they'll have to bring it back.

          Check out this interview with an economist. From 2010

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        • Who says they keep it in the EU, or even in banks? There are other investment vehicles in other countries where you can get 6% or more and still be extremely liquid.
      • And why, exactly, is that bad?

        What's wrong with "letting" foreign money stay foreign? If the companies want to use it for US endeavors, they'll have to pay taxes on it.

      • vs. the alternative of grabbing them by the nuts and telling them to either pay their fucking taxes like everyone or get the hell out.

        Sadly, that ball-grabbing first of all required some balls.

        • They actually do pay their fucking taxes like everyone else. They are completely legal with regards to taxes paid in the US - which are paid on gross profits made in the US. However, current US tax law does not tax foreign profits that are left overseas.
    • Trump wants to legalize companies to bring in that money into the USA without having to pay taxes. Basically a big present he'll give them.

      Well, once money is back in US, it is still time to change our mind and tax it as capital instead of income.

    • Trump only wants to lower corporate taxes (while also raising tax rates for rich people by taking out loopholes, funny you forgot that part).

      Apple has said before that if the rate were reasonable, they'd be happy to bring the cash back - so by lowering the corporate tax rate, the U.S. government would get a giant lump sum from these companies. What is not to like?

      By the way, if you think Hillary is not going to work the exact same deal you are smoking something. Hillary is far more in bed with corporate i

      • while also raising tax rates for rich people by taking out loopholes, funny you forgot that part

        Rich people are even more mobile than companies, if a country plans to raise taxes they simply move off. Take greece for example, all the rich people immediately left the money when they found out the state was in desperate need for money.

        Trump only wants to lower corporate taxes

        From his official website https://www.donaldjtrump.com/p... [donaldjtrump.com] he wants:

        A one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 10% tax rate. Since we are making America’s corporate tax rate globally competitive, it is only fair that corporations help make that move fiscally responsible. U.S.-owned corporations have as much as $2.5 trillion in cash sitting overseas. Some companies have been leaving cash overseas as a tax maneuver.

        So instead of 30% the companies only have to pay 10%. That's a legalized evasion of 20%.

        And consider that you are reading the promises here, not the actually passed bill, which will have to go through the

    • Trump wants to legalize companies to bring in that money into the USA without having to pay taxes. Basically a big present he'll give them.

      Its much like the choice the media companies have where they can either get some money from letting people like Netflix distribute their content internationally.
      Or they can force people like Netflix to restrict access to media based on geolocation and get zero money because people start pirating again.

      Either you can try to force the tax issue and get nothing or you can look the other way and get something.

    • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
      Trumps plan is actually better if you think about it deeper. While Hillary, Bernie, and Obama constantly scream out the taking point of getting corporations to play fair, have you ever heard a plan? Obama had 8 years. Was he just too busy having Steph Curry over for BBQ? He didn't do anything, and neither will Hillary or Bernie, because they can't. You can't force a company or individual into anything. And any new laws you create are only as good as their enforcement, which means new agencies and red tape.
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:53PM (#52152929)

    Ah, financial news - a place where you can open make statements like: "Unless the US changes its laws to give me lots of money, I can't help but foresee DIRE, DIRE things happening. Financial catastrophe would be putting it lightly." ... and not only is it counted as somehow news, but the richer or more openly lying the person saying it, the more respect it is given.

    Well, WELL past the point of poe's law [wikipedia.org].

    Ryan Fenton

    • Well, the point is, at some point people will notice that they have nothing. And having nothing also means you have nothing to lose. At some point this can get very ugly very quickly.

      • Revolutions almost always have started by people starving. As long as you keep them well fed (and in the USA the population is damn well fed), they stay content.

  • by dbreeze ( 228599 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:00PM (#52152973)

    I hope enough of us flesh and bone humans realize soon enough that corporations just aren't like us. Their interests and motivations are not ours. Either they will rule or we will rule. We had better get to work before it's too late.... http://www.movetoamend.org/ [movetoamend.org]

    • Corporations, like the government, are us. CEOs and entry level employees alike, are people. And stockholders are people. I can't think of anyone involved with a company who is not a person.

      Banks? Banks are made up of people. Unless finance is directed by A.I., it's people all the way around.

      We have a terrible tax system for foreign profits, but I can't find a problem with Citizens United that can't be explained as a fundamental misunderstanding of the economy, business, and people in general.

      If I work

      • Corporations, like the government, are us

        Corporations are logical constructs. Legal constructs. Bernanke called them 'legal fictions'.

        When one thinks of a corporation doing something, they should think of one (or a few) people doing it under the flag of the corporation.

        • Semantics, and Bernanke's opinions on anything are worth shit to a baby.

          I can fund a corporation by buying a product, or choose not to. I can encourage a corporation buy purchasing stock, or choose not to, or discourage by selling.

          Acting under the flag of the corporation will get you promoted, or thrown from the board, or fired. If there is a board, that board is chosen by stockholders.

          All of this is people. You are ignoring the role of all of the employees and stockholders in this legal fiction. They

  • the real issue (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gonar ( 78767 )

    "unless tax laws are changed to prevent the expatriation of cash to tax havens avoid paying taxes"

    • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
      We always just need the right laws don't we? There's always some idea man suggesting he's got it all figured out: if we just add these couple laws, impose these few regulations, then everything will be fine. But it never is. Invariably regulations either don't completely address the problem, or they create new unanticipated problems. This results in the next generation of idea men dreaming up more regulations, rinse and repeat. Eventually you end up with a bureaucratic nightmare where the only people that c
  • Lies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by don_combatant ( 1039232 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:21PM (#52153089) Homepage
    This story is misleading and irresponsible. There are many different measures of the US money supply including M0, M1, M2, M3, M4, adjusted monetary base, et al. The $1.7T number represents only the physically printed bills plus minted coins in circulation. M4 represents the total money supply including physical cash, bank balances, certificates of deposit, etc. Current US M3 money supply is approaching $20T, and the Treasury Department doesn't even divulge the M4 numbers anymore as per Federal Reserve Directive because they claim it's too difficult to calculate the total amount of US currency in circulation. READ: they don't want the proles knowing how much money is being pumped into the system post 2008 crash. The Fed alone has nearly $4T on their balance sheet and they don't even have legal authority to print money -- that's the Treasury Departments arena.

    This story would only be accurate if those companies were holding the $500 billion in actual physical $100 bills in a vault. They are not. This $500 billion is merely entries in a database on a bank server and thus should be compared to the total M4 money supply, not M0. While $500B is a tremendous amount of money, the story would be much less shocking if the correct comparison was made.

    • The article is even more wrong. The money is booked to subsidiaries incorporated overseas, but most of it is probably held in US financial institutions. That does limit what the money can be used for, but not where it is actually held.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @09:43PM (#52153193) Homepage

    A Third Of Cash Is Held By 5 US Tech Companies

    roughly 30% of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015

    So actually it should be:

    A third of all cash held by US non-financial companies in 2015 is held by 5 US tech companies

  • That Apple funnels US profits in a Nevada shell company to avoid paying state corporate taxes, including taxes in California where corporate headquarters are located.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/business/apples-tax-strategy-aims-at-low-tax-states-and-nations.html [nytimes.com]

    • That Apple funnels US profits in a Nevada shell company to avoid paying state corporate taxes

      Obviously you run your own company. Did you specifically choose to set up that company in a state with the high taxes? No? Why not?

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        Obviously you run your own company. Did you specifically choose to set up that company in a state with the high taxes? No? Why not?

        Apple incorporated in California in 1977 and had no problems paying the state corporate tax until 2006, when they opened their subsidiary to shield multi-billion-dollar profits from being taxed in California. Apple should simply move their headquarters to Nevada and stop playing tax games. I guess they don't want to give up their $496M in R&D tax credits that California taxpayers gave them since 1996.

  • Just get rid of all corporation tax. It doesn't really matter, resulting increase sales and personal income will more than make up for it.

    • You mean like Kansas did, and then they are facing financial catastrophe?

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Just get rid of all corporation tax. It doesn't really matter, resulting increase sales and personal income will more than make up for it.

      How so? Corporations set their prices to whatever the market will bear, they won't lower their prices just because their profits increase. For example see Apple. Corporations also currently write off wages so it is in their interest to pay large salaries so as not to pay taxes on that money and they still attempt to pay as little as they can get away with, see numerous violations of H1Bs and various large corps conspiring to keep wages down. Remove the write off angle and they'll drop wages even more if the

  • by tom229 ( 1640685 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @10:51PM (#52153467)
    The U.S. Corporate tax rate is something ridiculous like 35%. They can claim profits are in a country as close as Canada and it would only cost them 15%. You can't be this wildly out of balance in a global market and expect to function well. This is a fundamental aspect of free market capitalism. Actually, if the U.S. lowered the rate to even something like 17% I'm sure they'd generate more revenue, instead of less. A company the size of Google likely spends a great deal of money on clever accounting to avoid taxes. They wouldn't need to do it if there was little or no benefit.
  • "moving back"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @12:02AM (#52153719) Journal
    That money was never taken out of the country, so why is it "moving it back"? If Apple sells an iPhone in Japan and it manufactured the phone in China, why should it deposit the profits on that money in a US bank?
    • Re:"moving back"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phizi0n ( 1237812 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @01:11AM (#52153957)

      Even if it is manufactured and sold outside the country, lots of work inside the US helped to produce it (designing it, programing it, testing it) so shouldn't some portion of the profits still come back?

      The bigger issue is that their offshore money is not only from offshore business but it does get "exported" as well. They set up a bunch of shell corporations and then one of their shell companies pays another for whatever reason they make up in order to move money from one country to another. For instance, Google US could take all their profits and pay it to Google Ireland for [insert any reason] and then Google US's taxable income would be $0 so they'd pay no taxes in the US. This is how literally every multinational corporation avoids paying taxes or at least significantly reducing them.

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @12:29AM (#52153843) Journal

    Revoke their charter if they are not prepared to contribute to the societies that grant them a license to exist. After all they are users of infrastructure and they expect the community to absorb all manner of negative externalities. It's only right that they contribute their share of tax if the rest of us do.

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