Letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook from a Disgruntled Shareholder

From: "Brian Levin"
Date: May 21, 2013 5:15:01 AM
Subject: Letter to Tim Cook from a Disgruntled Shareholder

Dear Tim,

I'm upset--and no, it's not because Apple's share prices have fallen 37% since last September. I'm 24 and got most of my shares around $20 when I was a kid, so I take the long view.

I'm writing to you because I always thought Apple was different. My grief following Steve Jobs' death--like that of so many others around the globe--mourned the loss of a creative visionary who crafted a different kind of company in his image--an anti-corporate corporation, a company with a soul that made magic, or the closest thing to it. It's the reason Macs grace the desks of artists and activists and students everywhere and Apple logos are ubiquitous on Volkswagen Beetles next to "Save Darfur" and "No Farms, No Food" bumper stickers. But perhaps I was just drinking the marketing Kool-Aid.

I'm angry because Apple not only engages in the questionable practice of stashing its cash in offshore tax havens, it has become the greatest offender, avoiding US taxes on $74 billion over the past four years. There's something fundamentally wrong when the wealthiest company in America pays 12.6% in taxes, while my father's small business, my grandfather's store and the Korean Deli across the street pay a rate nearly three times higher. And it's not just savvy accounting or a strategic maneuver--Apple's tax avoidance has a profoundly damaging effect on our whole country.

The fifty largest San Francisco Bay Area companies alone did not pay taxes on over $225 billion stashed overseas. A 35% corporate tax rate on that money would amount to $78.75 billion, which would nearly cover the $85 billion in painful sequester cuts that resulted from the government not taking in enough money to pay the bills. These cuts are hurting everything from Head Start programs to food safety inspections and police forces to infrastructure projects. In some ways, Apple's tax avoidance is threatening its own future, as cuts to schools and STEM education mean fewer people will be equipped with the skills to innovate and break new technological barriers at places like Apple. Avoidance by companies like Apple also unfairly shifts the tax burden to individuals and small businesses--after all, the government can't run on empty, and if companies like Apple don't pay their fair share, the rest of us pay more.

Apple's story is an American story, of entrepreneurs hacking away in a garage who ultimately went on to create products that changed our world and the way we live. In doing so, Apple benefited from the prowess of employees educated at government-funded schools, research financed by the American taxpayer and being located in a country where the only limits are those imposed by one's imagination.

Tim--as Steve Jobs once implored all of us--please "think different." Don't go into the Senate hearing on the defensive or with a cockamamie tax proposal. Instead, why don't you pledge to bring Apple's money back home where it belongs and be King Arthur, not the Grinch?

I want Apple to innovate with new "incredibly great" products that wow the world like the iMac and iPhone did--not with new ways of nickel and diming Uncle Sam. Do what's right and stick to what Apple does best and continued success will surely follow.

All the best,

Brian Levin