There wasn't a lot of talk about technology in President Trump's first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, but he did take time to highlight Apple, citing its announcement earlier this month that it will invest $350 billion in the United States. Trump raised it as a crucial example of how the Republican tax cuts passed last year directly benefit the U.S. economy.
“Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses — many of them thousands and thousands of dollars per worker — and it's getting to be more every month, every week. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America and hire another 20,000 workers,” Trump said.
When asked to comment on the president's remarks, Apple pointed to its release from earlier this month. But while Trump has repeatedly touted Apple's planned investment as a direct result of the new tax law — in public statements and in a recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — the connection between the two is not so clear.
Apple announced a five-year investment plan — which includes a new corporate campus — shortly after the new law passed. But it has not detailed which investments are directly linked to the tax cuts. It did say, however, that it will pay $38 billion in taxes on its overseas profits.
A payment of that size — which Apple claimed is probably the largest of its kind ever paid to the U.S. government — suggests that Apple is paying taxes on the majority of the $252 billion in offshore cash that it reported holding in its last earnings release. The titanic sum, observers say, is both a signal of how successful Apple is and also of how well it maneuvered through the global tax system.
Apple has given indications that the tax changes inspired a portion of its U.S. spending and investment goals, but not necessarily all of it. Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in an interview with ABC News earlier this month that “there are large parts of this that are a result of the tax reform, and there’s large parts of this that we would have done in any situation.”
Cook also told CNBC's Jim Cramer earlier this month that the tax code changes created a better environment for Apple to execute its plans.
While Apple and Cook have criticized some of Trump’s policies in the past, the narrative that the tax cut has enabled Apple’s investment benefits the tech giant. For years, Cook has championed the idea that changes to corporate tax rules would help Apple increase its investments in the United States and has repeatedly used that argument to counter sharp criticism of the company's tax practices. While defending Apple's tax strategy before Congress in 2013, Cook called for a lower corporate tax rate and a lower tax rate on repatriated cash. A Senate report said the company had set up an elaborate system to avoid tax payments on at least $74 billion in profits between 2009 and 2012.
Cook said at the time that Apple paid “all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” and criticized the nation's tax system, saying it discouraged companies from bringing money earned overseas back to the United States.
It is not yet clear, however, how much Apple's new investments can be attributed to the tax changes. The company has pledged to quintuple the size of its manufacturer's fund — a fund dedicated to supporting firms that make parts of Apple products, such as the glass company Corning — to $5 billion from $1 billion. But Apple has not said how much of the money it spends on projects, such as facilities, goes to the United States; globally, Apple has spent between $12 billion and $15 billion on such projects over the past several years.
More details about the pace of Apple's investment are expected in the company's earnings report, due Thursday.
Other technology companies have not yet said how the new tax changes may affect their U.S. investment, though some, such as AT&T and Comcast, have like Apple tied the new law to employee bonuses.