ATO tax dump reveals the dodgers: the usual suspects shine

by Michael West | Dec 13, 2018 | Finance & Tax

Once a year, the Tax Office unveils its data showing how much tax the biggest companies in Australia paid, or in one-third of cases, didn’t pay. Once again, despite the nosebleed rise in gas prices, the gas giants skimped on their tax. That’s zero from Origin, Shell, Chevron, Santos, BG and Exxon.

Here they are drilling Australia’s natural resources, finite stuff, sending it offshore, and paying no tax.

There are now four years of published data from the ATO. For the fourth year running, the biggest of the US oil majors, Exxon, paid zero tax. Despite revenues of $8.4 billion, Exxon managed to entirely eliminate every skerrick of taxable income. That is, zero tax paid despite more than $33 billion in total income booked over four years.

Charge tax shark Exxon with contempt of Parliament

Despite the periodic wailing from his media outlets about welfare bludgers, Rupert Murdoch’s assets in Australia “leaked” very little in the way of tax. News Australia Holdings produced taxable income of $116 million from revenues of $2.9 billion but still managed to pay zero tax.

After three years of paying nothing, Foxtel Cable TV showed total income $1,975 billion, taxable income of  $4 million and tax payable of $1.2 million.

EnergyAustralia: nailing energy customers and taxpayers to boot

Its electricity customers will not be happy to hear this but Energy Australia – with its British Virgin Islands parentage – has now skived out of paying tax for four years on the trot. Last year, $6.3 billion in income reduced to zero taxable income and zero tax. This used to be a NSW government asset.

Shell Energy zero, BG International $3 billion total income, zero taxable income, zero tax. Origin energy paid zero tax despite recording $188 million in taxable income. Santos booked $3.7 billion and recorded zero taxable income.

Amex, having gone a decade paying no net tax, showed tax payable of $9,380. While Google and Facebook are now “onshoring” their revenue and paying a spot of tax, other new media such as eBay and appear to still be booking their sales directly offshore. Expedia paid zero.

Glencore’s three entities paid a combined $11.1 million on taxable income of $1.7 billion and $16.9 billion in total income.

Glencore, media battles and the pitfalls of fighting a multinational

Yet again, nothing from sugar giant Wilmar or JP Morgan. Not a penny from Goldman Sachs or brewing giant SAB.

Of the 1,720 companies in this year’s crop of top corporate taxpayers, 751 paid zero (half a trillion in revenue). The pattern which has arisen over the four years of reported data is that roughly a third of the top companies pay nothing. Many pay very little and the big four banks pay a poultice.

Many of those companies which pay no tax, in a given year, may have incurred legitimate tax losses. No profit, no tax payable. But many more have deliberately eliminated their taxable income in Australia. Hence the foreign domiciled multinationals are far more culpable.

The figures, in many cases, are a bit outdated. Many Australian companies have already reported their June year results. Companies such as Qantas and Virgin paid no tax again last year. Lendlease has earned total revenue of $89 billion over six years, declared profit before tax of $5.3 billion, paid distributions to owners of $2.1 billion but still paid no income tax in Australia.

Once again this year we will be producing the Top 40 Tax Dodgers charts, the Top 40 Tax Heroes (those who pay the most per dollar) and the Top 40 Taxpayers (those who pay the most by straight dollar value). Stay tuned.

ATO data dump: naming and shaming the nation’s biggest tax cheats

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Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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