Stock in Focus: Microsoft (NASDAQ MSFT) Offshore Cash

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Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ MSFT) is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in US taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company’s most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.

The company says it has “not provided deferred US income taxes” because it says the earnings were generated from its “non-US subsidiaries” and then “reinvested outside the US.” Tax experts, however, say that details of the filing suggest the company is using tax shelters to dodge the taxes it owes as a company domiciled in the United States.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ MSFT): Microsoft dodges Tax

In response to a request for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson referred International Business Times to 2012 US Senate testimony from William J. Sample, the company’s corporate VP for worldwide tax. He said: “Microsoft’s tax results follow from its business, which is fundamentally a global business that requires us to operate in foreign markets in order to compete and grow. In conducting our business at home and abroad, we abide by US and foreign tax laws as written. That is not to say that the rules cannot be improved — to the contrary, we believe they can and should be.”

The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of US-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries and so-called “inversions” to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers — although often legal – threaten to signficantly reduce US corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.

White House officials have called the tactics an affront to “economic patriotism” and President Obama himself has derided “a small but growing group of big corporations that are fleeing the country to get out of paying taxes.” In a July speech, he said such firms are “declaring their base someplace else even though most of their operations are here.”

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ MSFT) Business News

Because Microsoft has not declared itself a subsidiary of a foreign company, the firm has not technically engaged in an inversion. However, according to a 2012 US Senate investigation, the company has in recent years used its offshore subsidiaries to substantially reduce its tax bills.

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