Complex tax arrangements come under scrutiny in the latest revelations from data leak
Paradise Papers: Apple and Lewis Hamilton accused in latest release of data
The latest batch of revelations from the ‘Paradise Papers’ have fingered tech giant Apple and the formula one driver Lewis Hamilton.
Apple revamped its overseas subsidiaries to take advantage of tax loopholes on the European island of Jersey after a crackdown on Ireland's loose rules began in 2013 according to the latest releases.
The New York Times cited confidential records that were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. The cache of 13 million secret documents came from Appleby, a Bermuda-based law firm that helps businesses and wealthy individuals find tax shelters.
The moves came after a US Senate subcommittee found in 2013 that Apple had avoided tens of billions of dollars in taxes by using overseas havens. The paper said Apple has $128 billion in offshore profits not taxed by the US.
By 2015, Apple had moved the tax home of two Irish subsidiaries to Jersey, a self-governing island in the English Channel, and also made Ireland the tax home of a different European subsidiary.
Apple said in response that the reports contained various “inaccuracies”. For instance, the company said its 2015 corporate reorganisation was “specially designed to preserve its tax payments to the United States, not to reduce its taxes anywhere else.”
The company said it was the largest taxpayer in the world, paying $35 billion in corporate income tax over the last three years, including $1.5 billion in Ireland. It said it pays an effective tax rate of 21 percent on foreign earnings.
The company said that it told regulators in the US and European Commission of the reorganisation of its Irish subsidiaries in 2015 and said the moves did not reduce its tax payments in any country.
Formula one champion Lewis Hamilton avoided paying taxes on his private jet using an elaborate scheme now under investigation by British tax authorities.
The driver received a £3.3 million VAT refund in 2013 after his luxury plane was imported into the Isle of Man – a low-tax British Crown Dependency, according to the BBC and Guardian newspaper.
The ‘Paradise Papers’ allege accountancy firm EY and Appleby – the Bermuda-based law firm at the centre of the leaks – assisted Mr Hamilton and dozens of other clients in setting up seemingly artificial leasing businesses to get multi-million-pound VAT rebates.
The complex arrangements, which involved the individuals forming entities that rented their own jets, may contravene Europe-wide rules forbidding refunds for personal use, the media outlets said.
Mr Hamilton’s lawyers told the BBC a review by a tax barrister found the structure was lawful, and that some VAT had been paid through the arrangements.
There is also no indication Hamilton was directly involved in creating the scheme, and simply followed professional advice, the Guardian said.