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Why Fantastically Wealthy Apple Is Borrowing Money

• Michael V. Copeland via

This, of course, is the same tech company that is sitting on almost $150 billion in cash. So why would Apple borrow the money, when it already has so much of it sloshing around?

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer spelled it out during Apple’s recent earnings call. “We are continuing to generate significant cash offshore,” Oppenheimer told press and analysts. “And repatriating this cash would result in significant tax consequences under current U.S. tax law.” What he didn’t quite spell out was how significant those consequences are.

“Whopping,” is how Jennifer Blouin, associate professor of accounting at the Wharton School, describes it.

As Oppenheimer points out, if Apple brought its foreign cash back stateside, it would have to fork over 35% of it in taxes under current U.S. law. The U.S will give Apple credit for taxes it already paid to foreign governments, but by Blouin’s calculation based on Apple’s 2012 10-K, Apple’s estimated foreign tax rate on its hoard of foreign earnings (i.e. its permanently reinvested earnings) is—wait for it—0.84%.

Let’s be generous and call it a full percentage point, even two. “Apple can either pay the U.S. government 33 or 34 cents on every dollar it repatriates,” Blouin says. “Or it can borrow in the U.S. at 3 percent—maybe not even that much.”

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