Usual suspects play role in annual tax office data dump by paying donuts out of their billions

Fluttering ambition

The latest Tax Office transparency report shows the oil and gas behemoths are, once again, Australia’s biggest tax crooks. Callum Foote and Michael west report on the good and the bad in the area of ​​corporate tax avoidance.

The usual suspects go back to it. Avoid tax, that is, do not contribute to the society in which they operate. Rupert Murdoch, the pirates on the wrists of Brookfield, Lendlease, and a host of foreign multinational fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips and BG Group. Donut. Zero income tax payable for one more year.

When we calculate Michael West Media’s annual Top 40 Tax Dodgers, it’s certain that America’s biggest oil company, Exxon, will top the charts again. ExxonMobil Australia posted a total revenue of $ 15.6 billion for the year 2019-2020, managed to extinguish its profits completely – thanks to the usual ‘debt loading’ – and did not pay a dime of income tax.

That’s $ 71.3 billion in revenue over the seven years of available tax office transparency data. Exxon zero tax. And a paltry sum arguably from the PRRT, the dismal failure of a tax that is supposed to capture some of the enormous mineral wealth that Australia exports each year.

Every year, just once a year, we see how much tax the world’s biggest companies pay or don’t pay in Australia. It landed today is the Australian Tax Office’s annual corporate tax transparency report.

Overall, in trends, oil and gas companies have been the worst. The usual real estate groups such as Meriton, Brookfield’s BPIH, Toga and Lendlease haven’t paid a zac. Neither large trusts such as Mirvac, Transurban and Sydney Airport, although they are trusts, so it is not necessary; it depends on their members.

Once again, the national banks have paid their fair share. BHP and Rio too. Iron ore tycoons Gina and Twiggy paid around $ 1.3 billion and nearly $ 3 billion, respectively. Airlines, as usual, paid nothing, as did gas giants Santos and Origin Energy. Nothing from Adani Abbot Point, or the Whitehaven and Peabody coal companies.

Murdoch’s News Australia Holdings paid nothing for the seventh year at the trot, despite $ 1.7 billion in revenue, and Foxtel – as shown here – has been conveniently and slyly “disappeared” off Delaware’s secret jurisdiction amid rumors of a float in the stock market.

Goldman Sachs eventually rebounded in taxpayer status, as did tech groups Atlassian, Uber, and Facebook; and Glencore is now paying a large sum. PwC’s consulting business paid zero again, this time over $ 700 million in revenue.

Unfortunately, the latest ATO dataset does not capture the extent of the pandemic on companies operating in Australia, as a large chunk of the companies in the dataset were deposited in December 2019 before the shock started.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Saint was quick to point out the effect of the ATO Tax Avoidance Task Force and the $ 10 billion it brought to Commonwealth coffers over the past 6 years.

Following the Senate investigation into corporate tax evasion in 2015, the task force was initially funded with $ 679 million over four years in 2016; and in 2019, an additional $ 1 billion was provided to extend the functioning of the working group until June 30, 2023. In 2021-2022, more than 1,800 ATO employees are funded by the working group.

The task force also tapped into industry expertise, primarily to access advice on transfer pricing, although Saint assured MWM that “I would never hire the Big 4s. [accounting firms] on any of my cases ”, while maintaining that they have a very important role to play in Australian tax culture.

The task force enabled half of the 100 largest companies and economic groups operating in Australia to achieve a high insurance score, up from just 6% in 2019, thanks to “the significant investment of time and resources of the ATO. ATO in reviewing tax governance structures, transactions and frameworks ”.

Following the task force’s scrutiny, Saint assured MWM that “there is nowhere to hide for these economic groups. ATO has some of the best tax auditors in the world, not just in Australia. “

Saint also pointed out that this review is ongoing and that much of the task force’s job is to ensure that “we lock in these behavioral changes going forward and monitor whether they comply with them.” “.

A milestone in the battle between corporate tax lawyers who are constantly innovating around Australian tax regulation.

The report also found that about a third of all companies analyzed paid no taxes, a measure consistent with previous years and which Saint said would not change significantly even before the 2020-21 pandemic year.

While the pandemic has destroyed many businesses, JobKeeper’s $ 90 billion in grants have supported many, and around $ 20 billion has been squandered on businesses with increased revenues. Another $ 20 billion went to companies that didn’t need it, much of it spent on executive bonuses and dividends for shareholders.

This time around next year, we’ll get a better idea of ​​whether the guilty companies that defrauded JobKeeper’s massive grants have paid their fair share of taxes.

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