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Big multinationals still dodging tax

Written by: Nick G. on 13 December 2019


Latest figures from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) show that big multinational corporations are continuing to evade their obligations to pay tax on their Australian earnings. They have been doing this for many years, but the ATO has only made data available since the 2013-14 financial year.

The figures for the 2017-18 financial year, the fifth in a series of annual reports on the tax status of entities considered to be the biggest 2200 companies in Australia, showed 32% paid no tax on billions of dollars of Australia revenue.

The figures cover public and foreign-owned corporations with a total income of $100 million or more, and Australian-owned resident private companies with a total income of $200 million or more.  These cut-off points actually enable thousands of very profitable large foreign and local companies to avoid public scrutiny.
Australian tax laws require companies to pay a 30% tax rate on their profits.  Unlike individual tax-payers, they are not taxed on their income, but on what they can cleverly claim to be their annual profits.
The following table lists the income, tax payable and tax paid by the first 5 (alphabetically listed) member companies of the Business Council of Australia whose 100 or so members constitute the core of the Australian ruling class.

BCA Member Company

Total Income

Tax Payable

Tax Paid






AGL Energy Ltd




Alcoa of Australia Ltd




Alumina Ltd




Amcor Ltd









The figures show that these five companies alone were able to reduce their tax payable to a mere 8.6% of their income, and paid tax of only 1.9% on that income.

I don’t know many workers who can evade tax to that extent!

The rorts embedded in the company tax system that allow tax refusal on this scale include:

• carrying over losses from previous years,
• inbound supply chain rorts where local subsidiaries of multinational companies are charged over the odds for goods they sell in Australia, locking the profit away offshore,
• related party finance deals under which offshore companies in a multinational loan their Australian associates money at usurious rates, making sure little or no profit is made locally, and
• companies selling intellectual property, such as patents, to an offshore affiliate for less than the IP cost to develop and then lease it back.

Although under significant public pressure to make companies comply with their tax obligations, the Australian Tax Office treads very gently around the issue.
ATO deputy commissioner Rebecca Saint claimed that “voluntary compliance with tax law by big companies” had improved, but was still in need of further improvement.

So, the core of the ruling class, by the ATO’s own admission, is subject only to “voluntary compliance” with Australian tax law.

That means big foreign-owned multinationals like ExxonMobil which savaged its workforce at Longford in Victoria, demanding they accept wage cuts and cuts to annual leave and shift loading, paid no tax on the income their workers had made for them.

For the record, ExxonMobil paid no tax on Australian earnings of $9,617,324,823 in 2013-14; on $8,464,272,972 in 2014-15; on $6,728,562,395 in 2015-16; on $8,360,800,462 in 2016-17; and now, on $9,234,164,781 in 2017-18.  So, over five years, ExxonMobil has had an income of $42.3 billion in Australia, and paid not one single cent to the AT0!

Australia’s richest man, Anthony Pratt, controls Pratt Consolidated Holdings which again paid no tax, despite a turnover of $2.8bn and a taxable income of $59.1m.
Collectively, these parasites siphon off and keep for themselves so much of the immense wealth created by Australia’s working people.  This is wealth that could more than pay for the improvements in education, health, community and social services, for reparations and compensation to First Peoples, and for action on climate change and the environment (see our recently released Draft Fighting Program)
We must force the rich to pay!
We must have the multinationals in our key industries nationalised!
We must aim for an independent and socialist Australian Commonwealth where wreath is indeed held in common, by the people, for the people!


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