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EBay Tax Hit: Ray of Hope or Storm Cloud for Silicon Valley?

Stocks in this article: EBAY AAPL


U.S. income taxes and foreign withholding taxes associated with the repatriation of earnings of foreign subsidiaries were not provided for on a cumulative total of $48.0 billion of undistributed earnings for certain foreign subsidiaries as of the end of fiscal 2013. The Company intends to reinvest these earnings indefinitely in its foreign subsidiaries. If these earnings were distributed to the United States in the form of dividends or otherwise, or if the shares of the relevant foreign subsidiaries were sold or otherwise transferred, the Company would be subject to additional U.S. income taxes (subject to an adjustment for foreign tax credits) and foreign withholding taxes. Determination of the amount of unrecognized deferred income tax liability related to these earnings is not practicable.

As a result of certain employment and capital investment actions, the Company's income in certain foreign countries is subject to reduced tax rates and in some cases is wholly exempt from taxes. A portion of these tax incentives will expire during the second half of fiscal 2015, and the majority of the remaining balance will expire at the end of fiscal 2025. The gross income tax benefit attributable to tax incentives were estimated to be $1.4 billion ($0.26 per diluted share) in fiscal 2013, of which approximately $0.5 billion ($0.10 per diluted share) is based on tax incentives that will expire during the second half of fiscal 2015. As of the end of fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2011, the gross income tax benefits attributable to tax incentives were estimated to be $1.3 billion ($0.24 per diluted share) for each of the respective years. The gross income tax benefits were partially offset by accruals of U.S. income taxes on undistributed earnings.

As of July 27, 2013, $1.5 billion of the unrecognized tax benefits would affect the effective tax rate if realized. During fiscal 2013, the Company recognized $115 million of net interest expense and $2 million of penalties. During fiscal 2012, the Company recognized $146 million of net interest expense and $21 million of penalties. During fiscal 2011, the Company recognized $38 million of net interest expense and $9 million of penalties. The Company's total accrual for interest and penalties was $268 million, $381 million, and $214 million as of the end of fiscal 2013, 2012, and 2011, respectively. The Company is no longer subject to U.S. federal income tax audit for returns covering tax years through fiscal 2007. With limited exceptions, the Company is no longer subject to foreign, state, or local income tax audits for returns covering tax years through fiscal 2001.

The Company regularly engages in discussions and negotiations with tax authorities regarding tax matters in various jurisdictions. The Company believes it is reasonably possible that certain federal, foreign, and state tax matters may be concluded in the next 12 months. Specific positions that may be resolved include issues involving transfer pricing and various other matters. The Company estimates that the unrecognized tax benefits at July 27, 2013 could be reduced by approximately $200 million in the next 12 months.

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