Pomi Pty Limited

4 year total income$14,065,374,206
4 year taxable income$1,692,587
4 year tax payable$507,776
Tax Rate30.00%
IndustryFinancial services

Sydney day-trader Philip Tauberman is the man behind the mysterious Pomi and its humongous income of $14 billion over four years but as the company lodges no financial accounts, its tax affairs are impenetrable.

Tauberman is listed on LinkedIn as a director in another company, Cannon Trading, which “delivers algorithmic trading, API development/support, deep learning, sentiment analysis and autonomous advice for the Australian equity market”.

Assuming Pomi is involved in high volume automated trader like Cannon, the total income number disclosed with the ATO may represent gross trading turnover. We just don’t know, and therefore have run straight with the four year data from the Tax Office. Although it would seem an enormous risk to deploy $14 billion to produce a taxable income of just $1.7 million, Pomi does pay the full 30 per cent tax rate on that income.

Most multinational companies on our Top 40, indeed 269 large companies on the Tax Office transparency list, have paid zero tax for four years straight. Qantas is perhaps the best known, racking up almost $62 billion in total income and paying not one red cent in tax.

Qantas and others had built up billions of dollars in tax losses to shield them against future tax obligations. Others, more notorious, such as the oil majors, gas companies and Glencore have used “debt-loading” to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars a year in interest payments to their associates offshore.

There are many ways to create losses and rack up costs to reduce taxable income but, for the sake of ranking like for like, we needed to stick closely to the three data points disclosed to the ATO.

As explained in the methodology, the rankings are based on size of total income and the amount of total income wiped out to produce taxable income. The lower the taxable income, the lower the tax and the vast bulk of big ticket corporate tax avoidance occurs before the taxable income line rather than at the rate of tax paid.

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We are counting down the Top 40 Tax Dodgers. There are now four years of tax transparency data published by the Tax Office and we have used this data to work out which large companies operating in Australia have paid the least tax, or no tax.

Notable new economy players such as Google, eBay, Booking.com, Expedia are not near the top of the ATO list. That’s because they don’t (yet) recognise all income earned here; instead, they book Australian revenue directly to their associates offshore. They will be ranked in due course.

For other large corporations, and in particular, multinationals, the main steps in avoiding tax are made by reducing their taxable as much as they can; usually by sending it offshore in interest on loans, “service” fees or other payments to foreign associates. So, we have set a threshold. We have included only those companies which managed to wipe out 99.5 per cent or more of their taxable income over four years.

Qantas, therefore, is not on this list, although it has enormous income and has paid no income tax in Australia for many years. It misses the cut-off due to it not eliminating more than 99.5 per cent of its total income.

The airline had made large losses which were offset against profits. Many large corporations which have paid zero tax in ATO data, have legitimately made losses and have therefore built up “tax-loss shelter”.

Further explanation of methodology can be found here.

Many others however, such as ExxonMobil and EnergyAustralia, are on the list as they managed to eliminate all or most of their taxable income by “debt-loading” or other means of aggressive tax avoidance.

In this, the second iteration of michaelwest.com.au corporate tax rankings, we have ranked companies purely on the Tax Office data. We will also publish a list of Australia’s better corporate taxpayers, those companies who contribute most to the country in which they operate.

The Tax Office data is not a perfect guide. It does not record refunds, only tax payable and is often at odds with disclosures made for accounting purposes. In some cases, there are multiple entities with the same ultimate offshore parent reporting. One entity may pay zero tax, another may pay at the statutory 30 per cent rate (even if on low taxable income). We endeavour to be fair in our reporting to recognise these issues.

The data also recognises trusts as well as companies. For trusts, it is the members (investors) rather than the trusts who are ordinarily required to pay the tax. In many cases however it is fair to recognise trust structures for what they are, as tax is often the main reason these vehicles have been structured as trusts.

Companies are welcome to debate their rankings or to touch base to clarify or defend their tax practices. We will append or link these submissions.

Hydrox has been taken off the list as it never made a profit.

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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