Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was summoned to Capitol Hill Tuesday to explain his company's tax arrangements, which, according to Congressional investigators, amount to large-scale avoidance of taxes due to the U.S. and other governments.
According to a report by the office of Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the world's most profitable tech company pays U.S. taxes on revenue from its sales in this country only. That money is kept in California. Revenue from international sales winds up in Ireland, and Apple only pays U.S. taxes on the interest on that money, which doesn't amount to very much.
As Levin explained, to minimize its tax obligations, Apple created subsidiaries with no employees, run by execs at HQ in Cupertino, that could hold money without owing duties to any state:
"Apple wasn't satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven. Apple sought the holy grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars while claiming to be tax resident nowhere."
But if Apple's use of accounting tricks saved it an exceptional amount of cash, the company is just one of many U.S.-based multinational corporations to create elaborate tax shelters. Here are some other heavy users of tax havens, companies that were each holding more than $5 billion offshore as of early 2012. (Hat tip to Business Insider for unearthing the Senate report from last September that highlighted this.)
Companies with Foreign Cash Balances Greater than $5 Billion