The international corporate shell game to avoid paying taxes continues. According to Bloomberg, large U.S.-based companies added upwards of $206 billion to their offshore profits in 2013. Furthermore, U.S.-based multinational companies have accumulated $1.95 trillion outside the U.S. to date, increasing by 11.8% from 2012, according to SEC filings reviewed by Bloomberg News. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) accounted for $37.5 billion, or 18.2% of the total increase in 2013.
Top tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes for multinationals include Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Corporate taxes: Exploiting loopholes
As a number of analysts have commented over the last few years, the growing trend toward shifting profits offshore is just corporations taking advantage of legal tax loopholes. “The loopholes in our tax code right now give such a big reward to companies that use gimmicks to make it look like they earn their profits offshore,” explained Dan Smith, a tax expert at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, whose mission is to counteract corporate influence.
Technology companies taking greatest advantage
A recent article in SFGate points out that the growth in profits held outside the U.S. has been especially noticeable at technology companies such as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). The article also highlights that many technology firms are moving patents and other intellectual property to low-tax countries.
U.S. Congress “paralyzed”
International organizations (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Group of 20) and governments from a variety of nations have been working together over the last few years to try and keep corporations from shifting profits to tax havens, but the U.S. refuses to change its laws to close the loopholes corporations are exploiting.
Disagreements over whether and how to crack down on U.S. companies operating abroad coupled with arguments and fundamental differences regarding government spending and taxes have led to legislative stalemate and little to no progress on closing corporate tax loopholes.