The Usual Suspects: tax office dump lays bare Australia’s biggest tax dodgers

by Michael West | Nov 4, 2022 | What's the scam?

It’s the fossil fuel corporations again, the usual suspects, paying no income tax despite billions in income. For yet another year: Exxon nought, Shell nought, Ampol, BP and APLNG nought, and Chevron putting them all to shame with the $30 in income tax paid on its $9bn in revenues.

The annual Tax Office transparency report found around half of mining and energy stocks pay zero income tax. The thing to watch with these figures is the timing. This is last year’s data and does not capture the huge spike in coal and gas prices earlier this year from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And therefore the huge spike in foreign corporate profits being made at the expense of Australian energy consumers.

How do they do it? Multinational coal and gas companies exploit the failed PRRT oil and gas tax by wiping out tax obligations on profits with losses on their newer exploration projects, they also “debt-load” aggressively, that is write loans from their Australian entities to their offshore companies and the interest on these loans flows offshore thereby wiping out the tax bill.

Here are the main offenders for 2021. More tax is expected to be paid by them this year – given soaring energy prices, company profits, and power bills – so the pressure on government to deliver substantial reform should also rise.

ATO tax transparency report. Image: Marque Lawyers

Better than Buckleys: a real plan to tackle energy prices, climate and the Budget to boot

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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