Tax data released by the Australian Tax Office this week under new transparency laws includes tax information about many large companies operating in the agribusiness sector.
Under new laws introduced to increase tax transparency in Australia, the ATO yesterday published a report showing the amount of income tax paid in 2013-14 by 1539 Australian public companies and foreign entities, public and private, operating in Australia with total annual incomes of $100m or more.
Of the 1539 individual entities listed in the report, 579 (or 37.6 percent) paid no tax, and 920 (62.4pc) paid some tax in 2013-14.
The report has created an uproar, pointing the spotlight on many of Australia’s biggest companies and the amount of tax they pay. Business groups have expressed concern that the release could lead to misinterpretations and the perceptions that companies listed as paying little to no tax are acting illegally. Various types of deductions and carry-forward tax losses can be claimed which can legally reduce the amount of tax payable by a company.
In publishing the data the ATO said that no tax paid did not necessarily mean tax avoidance. To provide more context around the list it has also published three “guidance” items:
The ATO says the figures reported are taken directly from tax return labels, or amendments advised by taxpayers themselves before 1 September 2015.
It plans to release details of Australian owned and resident private companies with turnover of $200 million or more early in 2016, which is expected to involve a further 300 companies.
ATO commissioner Chris Jordan said the publication of tax details is part of a much wider domestic and global push for improved corporate transparency. It would also inform public debate about tax policy, particularly in relation to the corporate tax system.
“Community trust and confidence in the way these large companies operate matters. And, tax should matter to these companies. It is not something to be taken lightly. Collectively, these 1500 large corporates paid almost $40 billion in company tax in the 2014 fiscal year.
However Mr Jordan also sounded a warning that foreign-owned entities operating in Australia should not invest on the premise of no or very little tax being paid on significant profits generated in Australia.
“Some of these foreign owned companies are overly aggressive in the way they structure their operations. We will continue to challenge the more aggressive arrangements to show that we are resolute about ensuring companies are not unreasonably playing on the edge. If they do, they can expect to be challenged.”
The Business Council of Australia said the ATO’s publication of company tax data is an important input to the transparency and integrity of the Australian tax system.
“The data provides context on key issues being debated in Australia right now, in particular, a tax reform agenda that stimulates economic growth and job creation, and how the Australian tax system should be updated to better reflect our place in today’s global economy,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said
“However, the data should be interpreted carefully. Companies do not pay company income tax on revenue (total income) – they pay it on profits after paying all expenses including wages, capital replacement, supplier costs, fleet costs and other operating expenses. Profit margins will also vary by industry reflecting different capital intensities.
“Many small and medium sized businesses, in particular, do not make a profit in a given year, and even large businesses go through cycles where profits from large investments take time to be realised.
“The data also highlights the significant contributions made by business. The companies listed accounted for $40 billion of the $67 billion in company tax paid in 2013-14. Within the OECD only Norway taxes companies more as a share of the economy than Australia.”
Income tax information 2013-14 companies operating in agribusiness and/or rural and regional Australia:
|Agrium SP Holdings
|Australian Agriculture Co
|Australian Grain Growers Coop Ltd
|Chevron Australia Holdings Pty Ltd
|Chinatex Wool Company Pty Ltd
|Dow Agrosciences Australia
|Glencore Investment Pty Ltd
|Goodman Fielder Ltd
|Incitec Pivot Ltd
|JBS Holdco Australia Pty Ltd
|Kilcoy Industries Australia
|Landmark Global Exports
|Lempriere (Australia) Pty Ltd
|Marubeni Australia Ltd
|Murray Goulburn Cooperative Ltd
|Namoi Cotton Cooperative Ltd
|National Australia Bank
|NH Foods Australia Pty Ltd
|Rabo Australia Ltd
|Regional Express Holdings Ltd
|Ridley Corporation Ltd
|Riverina (Australia) Pty Ltd
|Ruralco Holdings Ltd
|Tabro Meat pty Ltd
|Tatura Milk Industries Ltd
|Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-op
|Westpac Banking Corporation
|Wilmar Australia Holdings Pty Ltd
|Zoetis Australia Pty Ltd
Source: Australian Tax Office
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