Corporate taxation in Oz: Is morality relevant?

“New research has revealed 76 of Australia’s biggest multinationals pay an average effective tax rate of just 16.2% – half the corporate tax rate.

It has also discovered the commonwealth government lost $5.4bn in potential tax revenue in 2013 and 2014 from those same companies, as they shifted billions of dollars in profits offshore.

Corporate tax experts from the University of Technology, Sydney, have worked with the activist group GetUp! to examine the financial records of the top 100 multinational corporations with operations in Australia.

They say large pharmaceutical corporations are paying the lowest effective tax rate at just 5.7%, compared with 7.5% for hi-tech corporations and 20% for energy corporations.

Australia’s official corporate tax rate is 30%.

A new report, Closing the Caribbean Connection: Solving Aggressive Tax Avoidance by Top Foreign Multinationals Operating in Australia, shows their findings.

It says the largest corporations with operations in Australia favour two tax minimisation techniques over any others.

The first technique, called “debt loading,” is favoured by energy companies. It finds foreign multinationals lending capital to their Australian operations at unusually high interest rates, with any profit made in Australia used to repay the foreign subsidiary. For the purposes of company tax records in Australia, the profits are then recorded as a loss in the form of an interest payment on the loan.

The second technique is called “profit alienation” and is preferred by pharmaceutical and hi-tech firms. It finds corporations holding intellectual property rights in low or zero tax jurisdictions. Any profits made in Australia are then used to pay the parent company for the use of its intellectual property.” … …

“The report’s authors say the Turnbull government needs to follow Hong Kong’s example in tackling debt loading abuse, by eliminating interest deductions and other financial payments on loans from foreign subsidiaries located in low or no tax jurisdictions.

It also says the government should introduce a diverted profits tax, set at 30% to reflect the current statutory tax rate for companies, as in the United Kingdom.

“Everyday Australians are paying tax at a higher rate than billionaire corporations like Chevron, Apple and Google,” Getup! campaigner Daney Faddoul said. “These foreign multinationals are inflating their losses and shifting their profits to rob Australia of crucial investment in our local hospitals and schools.”

(The above paragraphs are extracts from  Guardian Australia’s tax report of 20 April 2016.)

Representative government, anyone? One lot believes that, in the exciting times we live in, reducing company tax will result in instantaneous wealth creation (for whose benefit?). The other lot tells us what it might do one day. Will they work together for the benefit of the populace? What we have are legal loopholes benefiting from moral loopholes.     

 

 

 

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