appleinsider logo
Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Apple fighting high property tax assessments in Santa Clara county

When it comes to disputing local tax assessments, Apple is one of the toughest companies in Silicon Valley, and the company has repeatedly clashed with Santa Clara County to cut down how much tax it needs to pay.

Much has been made in recent years of Apple's attempts to place money overseas, most notably in Ireland, in order to lower their tax bill. Now, a new report says Apple is also getting unusually aggressive about minimizing taxation, much closer to home.

Apple, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, is leading a "years-long [effort] to recoup tens of millions of dollars they say they've overpaid in taxes on buildings, land, lab equipment, computers and other items" to Santa Clara County. The other major company doing so is San Mateo County-based Genentech, the biotech giant where Apple's current chairman, Arthur D. Levinson, served as CEO for many years.

Open cases

Apple currently has 489 open cases with the Santa Clara County tax assessor, totaling $8.5 billion in property value, dating back to 2004, according to the newspaper.

At issue are disagreements between the company and the county tax assessor over the value of certain items. That amount of items has increased significantly with the opening of Apple's new Apple Park headquarters, and all of the items contained therein.

In a couple of extreme examples, according to The Chronicle, Apple valued one "cluster of properties" in Cupertino at $200, while the county believes it's worth $1 billion. Apple also assigned a $200 value to another property that the assessor believes is worth $384 million.

It is unclear if the $200 valuations are for hundreds of dollars or are in fact for $200 million. Either way, the figure still represents a lower valuation by Apple than the assessor's estimate.

Local vs. national

Apple paid $56 million to the county in the tax year of 2017-'18, making it the County's largest taxpayer, although that is only in county taxes.

Apple said in late 2017 that it had paid $35 billion in corporate income taxes in the last three years, making it the world's largest taxpayer. That number will likely drop following the passage of tax reform, but it still significantly dwarfs the amount of the disputed county taxes.

Apple is clearly doing what they can within the law to pay as low an amount of taxes as they legally can. On the other hand, the assessors believe that the company and others like it are putting their significant financial and legal resources to bear in order to outgun local governments.