By Peter Burrows – May 2, 2013 9:01 PM PT

Apple Inc. (AAPL) avoided as much as $9.2 billion in taxes by financing part of a $55 billion stock buyback with debt rather than offshore cash that would have been billed by the U.S. government, Moody’s Investment Services estimates.

Based on current rates, Apple will pay interest of about $308 million a year on the $17 billion bond offering, said Gerald Granovsky, a senior vice president at Moody’s.

“From a pure corporate-finance theory perspective, this was a no-brainer,” Granovsky said.

If the funds had come from Apple’s offshore cash pile of about $100 billion, the Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker would have had to pay a 35 percent tax to repatriate the money, Granovsky said. That means Apple avoided about $9.2 billion in taxes. And since interest payments are tax-deductible, that’s another $100 million a year, Granovsky said.

In fiscal year 2012, Apple paid $6 billion in federal corporate income taxes, which is 1 out of every 40 dollars in corporate income taxes collected by the U.S. government, said Steve Dowling, a company spokesman.

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