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Why Thousands of People Signed Petitions to Investigate Apple’s Tax Strategies

Tim Cook makes his closing remarks during an Apple media event in San FranciscoTim Cook makes his closing remarks during an Apple media event in San Francisco
Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook makes his closing remarks during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach - RTX2OJUQBeck Diefenbach — Reuters

Apple is already mired in a tax battle in Ireland, but two new petitions signed by tens of thousands of people want to see that extended to the United States.

Over the last several days, nearly 50,000 people have signed two petitions calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to launch an investigation into Apple’s tax practices. The petitions have been published by SumOfUs, an international corporate watchdog, as well as Americans for Tax Fairness, which counts 425 prominent national and state organizations among its backers, including the AFL-CIO, The Arc, and the Economic Policy Institute.

“Apple has paid less than a 5% tax rate on the profits it has stashed offshore. Most of these profits are in tax havens, mainly Ireland, which is why Apple could owe the American people more than $60 billion in taxes,” saidFrank Clemente, executive director for Americans for Tax Fairness, in a statement. “The U.S. Treasury Department must hold Apple accountable for the tax dollars it owes the American people.”

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The petitions come just days after the European Commission slapped Apple (AAPL) with a $14.5 billion tax bill over claims that the company is diverting its profits through Ireland and not paying its fair share in taxes. While Apple said it would fight the bill and CEO Tim Cook called it “total political crap,” it has caught the ire of those who believe Apple and other major corporations are using tax loopholes to save on taxes.

The petitions cite a recent report by watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice, which claims Apple has more than $215 billion in offshore accounts. The report estimates that Apple is “avoiding an estimated $66 billion in U.S. taxes.” That’s another claim the iPhone maker has denied.

In addition to claims of innocence, Apple has found some quasi-partners in its fight against the European Commission. Indeed, the Ireland government believes that Apple is working within the constraints of its local regulations and said it will stand by the California-based company in disputing the claims. Ireland has also said it would not collect the billions in tax revenue it would be due in the event Apple capitulated.

Perhaps most importantly to the most recent petitions, the U.S. Treasury Department has also come out in full force against the Commission. Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said at an event in Washington that the move could ultimately hurt the U.S. and its own ability to collect taxes.

“I have been concerned that it reflected an attempt to reach in to the U.S. tax base to tax income that ought to be taxed in the United States,” Lew said.

That comment, though, leaves open the possibility of those signing the petition to get their wish. Lew’s comment, after all, suggests that Apple shouldn’t have to face tax concerns in Ireland until it faces them in the U.S.

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Neither the Treasury Department nor Apple responded to Fortune’s request for comment. However, the petitioners hope to get more people behind them.

“Stand with Americans for Tax Fairness and SumOfUs in demanding that the U.S. Treasury Department immediately investigate Apple for profit shifting and U.S. tax avoidance,” one petition reads. “Demand that Apple pay what it owes to America in back taxes!”