Microsoft owes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $28.9 billion in back taxes, not including penalties and interest, at least according to the tax authority. The tech giant has revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it received a series of Notices of Proposed Adjustment (NOPAs) from the IRS for the tax years 2004 to 2013. In its filing, it said that it’s been working with the IRS for nearly a decade to address the authority’s questions about how it distributed its profits among countries and jurisdictions, and this is the agency’s decision after a lengthy investigation.
To be exact, the IRS audit centered around a practice known as “transfer pricing,” which legally allowed companies to allocate profits and expenses between their operations in different regions. Microsoft explained that a lot of large multinational corporations practice this cost-sharing scheme to reflect “the global nature of their business.” In its case, its subsidiaries shared in the costs of developing some IPs, which means that they’re also entitled to the related profits. As AP notes, though, critics of the regulation argue that companies frequently use it to minimize the taxes they have to pay by reporting lower profits in high tax countries, and vice versa.
Microsoft explained that the issues raised by the IRS are only relevant to those aforementioned years, because it has since changed its corporate structure and practices. Nevertheless, the IRS believes Microsoft owes $28.9 billion in back taxes. The tech giant disagrees, as expected, and said that newer tax laws could reduce the back taxes it owes from this particular audit by $10 billion. Based on its plan of action shared with the SEC, the company intends to contest the decision to the best of its ability: Microsoft said that it will pursue an appeal within the IRS, which typically takes years to complete, and will even “contest any unresolved issues through the courts” if needed.