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Tim Cook calls notion of Apple avoiding US taxes 'political crap'

Apple chief executive Tim Cook dismissed as "total political crap" the notion that the tech giant was avoiding taxes.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple chief executive Tim Cook dismissed as "total political crap" the notion that the tech giant was avoiding taxes.

Mr Cook's remarks, made on CBS' 60 Minutes show, come amid a debate in the United States over corporations avoiding taxes through techniques such as so-called inversion deals, where a company redomiciles its tax base to another country.

Apple saves billions of dollars in taxes through subsidiaries in Ireland, where it declares much of its overseas profit. "Apple pays every tax dollar we owe," Mr Cook told 60 Minutes' Charlie Rose, according to excerpts from the interview released on Friday.

Mr Cook said bringing profits back to the United States would cost him 40 per cent. "I don't think that's a reasonable thing to do," he said.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probed Apple's tax strategies and found that Apple in 2012 alone avoided paying US$9 billion in US taxes, using a strategy involving three offshore units with no discernible tax home, or "residence." The press office of the subcommittee did not immediately return a request for comment on Cook's remarks.

Apple holds US$181.1 billion in offshore profits, more than any other US company, and would owe an estimated US$59.2 billion in taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States, a recent study based on SEC filings showed.

The current tax code was made for the industrial age, and not the "digital age," Mr Cook said. "It's backwards. It's awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago." Rebecca Lester, assistant professor of accounting at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, thought Cook's colorful language might reflect frustration about the lack of movement on tax reform in Washington. "Companies and the government are in a game of chicken, waiting to see which one moves first," she said. But so far, corporations are unwilling to bring overseas money back because of the tax implications and want Washington to act. "It sounds like Tim Cook is getting even more frustrated," Mr Lester said.

Apple shares closed down 2.7 per cent on Friday at US$106.03.