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Apple could face huge tax bill as Obama calls for new taxes on offshore profits in FY2016 budget

President Obama on Monday put forward a new budget that includes a one-time 14 percent levy on earnings held by U.S. companies overseas— funds which would be allocated to a $478 billion public works plan— followed by an ongoing 19 percent tax on foreign profits, whether the money is repatriated or not.




Obama's new taxes would offer "no loopholes or opportunities for deferral," according to the White House's proposal. At the same time, corporate tax rates would be reduced from 35 percent to 28 percent, while companies which manufacture goods in the U.S. would benefit from a lower 25 percent rate.

The mandatory 14 percent tariff could cost Apple as much as $20 billion up front, given that the company's overseas cash pile had reached as high as $140 billion last year.

Apple has been among those lobbying for a temporary tax holiday that would allow the return of foreign earnings at a discount to the current 35 percent level. That idea has bipartisan support in congress, with a bill set to be introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Rand Paul that would lower the repatriation rate to 6.5 percent for a limited time.

Obama opposes that idea, and instead pushed a recurring 19 percent tax on foreign earnings that would be levied even if the funds were left overseas. Companies could then repatriate that money without additional taxes, but it would still represent a steep tax increase, even when combined with the corporate rate cut.

The effect would be especially profound on companies like Apple, which make an increasingly-large proportion of their revenue from outside of the country. Some $44 billion of Apple's $75 billion in income during the just-completed holiday quarter was earned in Europe, Greater China, Japan, and the rest of Asia Pacific.

As expected, business groups have opposed Obama's plan, and it is unlikely to garner much support in the Republican-controlled congress.