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Apple risks having to repay Ireland tax rebates worth billions of dollars after the European Union's competition watchdog said Tuesday the company appears to be benefiting from illegal tax deals there.
In a preliminary report into the company's overseas tax practices, the 28-nation bloc's executive Commission said the low tax treatment Ireland is granting Apple counts as state aid and could be illegal under EU law.
If the finding is confirmed, Apple Inc. could face a huge repayment bill because it funnels the bulk of its international sales through subsidiaries in Ireland.
To keep market competition fair, the EU forbids governments from helping individual companies. The EU first announced the tax probe in June, also targeting coffee chain Starbucks and others as part of a crackdown on multinationals exploiting tax loopholes.
The EU Commission is now requesting further documents from Ireland before making a legally binding decision on whether the rebate granted to Apple is illegal and must be recouped, wholly or partially.
The EU probe focuses on exaggerated transfer pricing, where one part of a company charges another part an inflated price for goods or services to shift profits to low-tax locations.
If Apple had to repay some taxes, the money would come as a windfall to Irish state coffers. However, fearful of losing its reputation as a business-friendly country with low corporate taxes, the Irish government is adamant that no EU rules have been breached.
The Commission said the tax deals Ireland struck with Apple in 1991 and in 2007 show "several inconsistencies" and may not comply with international taxation standards. The Brussels-based executive body also was critical of the fact that Apple's applicable tax rate appears to have been the result of "a negotiation rather than a pricing methodology" which a "prudent, independent" tax authority should not have accepted.
The Commission added documents provided by Irish authorities, including minutes of meetings with Apple's tax advisers, fail to provide a consistent explanation for the agreed tax rates. It did not publish an estimate for Apple's effective tax rate in Ireland.
Apple maintains it has not received a favorable treatment in Ireland.
"We're subject to the same tax laws as the countless other companies who do business in Ireland," the company said in an emailed statement. "Apple has received no selective treatment from Irish officials over the years."
The company added that its tax payments to Ireland increased tenfold since it launched its first iPhone in 2007. In the statement, Apple also said that on a global level, "comprehensive corporate tax reform is badly needed."
Apple's tax practices have also attracted scrutiny in the United States, where a Senate Committee last year published a scathing report on the Cupertino-based firm's tax schemes.
The report held up Apple as an example of legal tax avoidance made possible by the complicated U.S. tax code, estimating the firm avoided at least $3.5 billion in U.S. federal taxes in 2011 and $9 billion in 2012 by using its tax strategy.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Tuesday the EU probe underscores the need to close loopholes that "allow Apple-type gimmicks whose sole purpose is to avoid paying U.S. taxes."
"Apple developed its crown jewels — lucrative intellectual property — in the United States, used a tax loophole to shift the profits ... offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, then boosted its profits through a sweetheart deal with the Irish government," he said.
Levin added Apple's Irish tax rate "has no rational basis" because it is the result of what Ireland accepted when threatened with job losses.
The company currently employs some 4,000 people in Cork, Ireland.
Apple — one of the world's most valuable and profitable firms — sat on some $164 billion in cash and cash equivalents, with $138 billion stashed away in foreign subsidiaries, according to its latest quarterly report in June. The company estimated its effective U.S. tax rate is 26.1 percent, as opposed to the statutory U.S. rate of 35 percent, primarily because of undistributed foreign earnings.
"A substantial portion" of those foreign earnings was generated by subsidiaries organized in Ireland, Apple said in the regulatory filing, adding that "such earnings are intended to be indefinitely reinvested outside the U.S."Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:04:07 -0700
PayPal's impending split from long-time partner eBay Inc. will ratchet up its appeal to online retail competitors such as Amazon.com and give it the freedom to aggressively take on new mobile pay challenger Apple Pay. For eBay, the challenge will be how to drive revenue without its fastest-growing division.
The move marks a 180-degree turn for eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, who had been adamant in spurning activist investor Carl Icahn's call months ago to spin off PayPal. Donahoe, who will step down after the split is finalized in the second half of next year, said he now agrees that it's the right path for both companies. With the launch of Apple Pay next month expected to reshape the mobile payments industry, Icahn said he's "happy" eBay came around, "perhaps a little later than they should have, but earlier than we expected."
Investors were happy too, sending eBay shares up more than 7 percent to close at $56.63 on Tuesday.
PayPal services $1 of every $6 dollars spent online. It collects fees from over 150 million users who use the online service to send money to other users and pay for goods and services in more than 200 markets. Acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.3 billion, its partnership with the popular site helped expand PayPal's reach worldwide. The service posted 20 percent revenue growth in the last quarter to $1.95 billion — representing nearly half of eBay's total revenue.
PayPal also has staked a claim in the small but swiftly-growing mobile payment arena, and is on track to process 1 billion mobile payments this year. It launched PayPal Here and acquired Braintree and its One Touch mobile payment service, which compete with players such as Square and Google Wallet. The payoff is huge for whichever player can own the space: mobile payments could spike to $58.4 billion by 2017 from just $1 billion last year, Citi Investment Research analyst Mark May said in August. And the pressure is on. Apple Inc., which has 800 million user accounts through iTunes, threw down a gauntlet last month with the announcement of its own digital wallet Apple Pay, slated to launch in October.
So what might be PayPal's first solo move?
Courting major eBay competitors such as Amazon.com Inc. and newly public Alibaba, who might be more likely to partner with PayPal now that it's not married to a direct competitor, says Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali. The company also could be a takeover target. Squali notes that Google and Microsoft (not to mention Visa and Mastercard), have tried to build online payment platforms with varying degrees of success.
And with PayPal "now essentially free to focus on payment innovation, and standing on the shoulders of a well-capitalized eBay, they can act more aggressively to counter new competitors," says R.W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian. He notes that PayPal will end up with a sizable amount of cash and none of eBay's debt.
New CEO Dan Schulman will bring both mobile and prepaid payment experience to the company. Schulman, 56, was founding CEO of Virgin Mobile, before leading the prepaid group at Sprint Nextel and most recently expanding mobile and online pay services at American Express. Citi's May noted that few people have that background in financial services, mobile technology and payments — three key strengths to be competitive going forward in digital payments.
The benefits of the move for eBay are less clear. The San Jose, Calif., company was plagued this year with a data breach and an algorithm change at Google that led to fewer hits from the search engine. In its most recent quarter, core marketplaces revenue rose just 9 percent to $2.17 billion, versus a 20 percent jump in payments revenue.
Devin Wenig, currently president of eBay Marketplaces, will become CEO of the new eBay Inc., leading both the marketplaces and enterprise divisions.Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:02:15 -0700
Federal health officials have confirmed that a patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola.
The case announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control is the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States.
Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital say the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation. Presbyterian Hospital officials say they're following CDC recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.
The CDC is expected to provide more details on the case in a press conference at 5:30 p.m. ETTue, 30 Sep 2014 13:57:03 -0700 News Source: MedleyStory More Local News Stories