January 22, 2018

A press release from Apple last week generated a lot of excitement about the new investments in the US that will be stimulated by Trump’s tax cuts, but it seems to me that apart from paying $38B of extra tax Apple is not planning to do anything that it wouldn’t have done in the absence of the tax cuts. This is what I gleaned from dissecting the above-linked press release:

1) Apple estimates that the new investment it plans to make over the next 5 years will ‘create’ an additional 20,000 US jobs, but what Apple counts as job creation is hugely different from Apple’s direct employment. Specifically, the company employs 84,000 people in the US but estimates that it is responsible for creating 2 million US jobs. The non-Apple employees involved in developing new iOS apps account for about 80% of this 2 million jobs number.

2) Additional job ‘creation’ of 20K amounts to only a 1% increase, but how much of this 1% increase is related to the tax cuts? As discussed below, possibly none of it.

3) Apple and other US companies with profits held outside the US are required to pay a one-off repatriation tax regardless of whether or not the profits are repatriated. Apple has stated that it will be making a repatriation tax payment of $38B, but has not stated that it will be bringing any of its overseas money back to the US.

4) Regardless of whether or not Apple shifts some of its foreign-held money to the US it is unlikely that this shift will result in additional capital investment in the US. The reason is that at no time over the past several years were Apple’s US investment plans constrained in any way by inadequate access to cheap financing. In other words, there is unlikely to be a significant change in Apple’s US capital investment plans due to the tax changes.

5) The concluding sentence in the above point is supported by the figures contained in last week’s press release from the company. The press release trumpets “350B contribution to the US economy over the next 5 years”, but goes on to mention that in addition to new investments this $350B includes Apple’s current rate of spending. The current rate of spending is $55B/year, which amounts to $275B over 5 years assuming no “inflation”. Allowing for a small amount of “inflation” would bring the amount up to around $300B. The $350B also includes the $38B repatriation tax, so we can quickly account for about $338B of the planned $350B without allowing anything for ‘new’ investments.

Apple is a great company and it will almost certainly invest heavily in the US economy over the next 5 years, but no more heavily than it would have invested in the absence of the “tax reform”.

Kudos to Apple management for creating the false impression, via a cleverly worded press release, that massive new investment would result from the tax changes. Politically, this was a smart move.

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