August 16, 2018
Silicon Valley’s largest and most iconic companies are employing armies of lawyers to show that their buildings are worth a lot less than what county tax assessors state.
In Santa Clara County, California, Apple Inc., the United States’ first trillion-dollar company by market capitalization, had 489 open cases dating back to 2004, disputing nearly $8.5 billion in property value, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The report notes that Apple is the largest taxpayer in the county, spending $56 million in the tax year 2017-18.
The company has had a long history of tax avoidance. In 2016, the European Union slapped Apple with a $15 billion European tax evasion fine, CEO Tim Cook wrote in an open letter that “in every country where we operate, Apple follows the law and we pay all the taxes we owe.”
As a whole, Santa Clara County has a shocking $76 billion in disputed assessments stemming from property valuations. More than half of the disputes are from ten tech companies, including Apple, Google, Applied Materials and Sun Microsystems.
Tax assessors told the San Francisco Chronicle that, for instance, Applied Materials has 94 appeals totaling $6.1 billion in disputed value and Google has 132 appeals covering $2.7 billion in disputed value.
“These are major cases, and publicly, they kind of go under the radar screen,” said Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, whose office has settled multimillion cases with IBM and Cisco over tax assessments. “How much will a company pay in attorneys’ fees and expert witnesses for a potential payday of $100 million? They’ve spent millions, but there’s millions at stake.”
“The source of many of the disagreements is high-tech equipment, which is more complicated to assess because of complex depreciation rules,” Stone said
“The sophistication of our companies and the complexity of our high-tech…