For once it would be nice for Congress to pretend to do its job. There is a time and a place for levity — a Senate hearing on how a company had avoided paying billions of dollars worth of taxes by squirreling away money in offshore accounts, is not one of them. Apple stands accused of using an impressive scheme of tax shelters to avoid paying taxes. Its CEO, Tim Cook, went to Capitol Hill today to give testimony concerning these accusations. Throughout the day Cook has blamed an outdated tax system as the real culprit here:
"Unfortunately, the tax code has not kept up with the digital age. The tax system handicaps American corporations in relation to our foreign competitors who don’'t have such constraints on the free movement of capital."
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) had just interviewed Cook about the company's profits, but he stopped his line of questioning to ask, "Why the hell do I have to keep updating apps on my iPhone all the time?" Though it was clearly a joke, there are some who think that it is just another indication of Congress throwing a softball to corporations. It seemed like a poor time to be making a joke, considering what Apple is accused of.
The congressional report released a few days ago found that Apple might pay as little as 1% in taxes on its billions of dollars worth of income. Let's quickly contrast that with what Americans pay in payroll tax. Last year Americans gave $1.1 trillion dollars to the government, corporations on the other hand only gave $181 billion. Tax loopholes are clearly a serious problem and perhaps Congress could find the time to address this issue if they stopped joking about it.