Multinational tax dodgers could be in contempt of parliament: Report

The Australian Taxation Office has reportedly handed a new methodology for calculating the amount of tax that multinationals should pay to the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

An Australian Taxation Office (ATO) method for calculating the amount of tax that corporations should pay has shown that companies have used every trick in the book to make their tax arrangements as complex as possible, Labor Senator and chair of the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance Sam Dastyari has told the ABC.

"This is an extraordinary development. It's a wake-up call for the biggest tax minimisers and tax dodgers that we will get to the bottom of this and we won't let you off the hook," the senator said.

The ABC is reporting that Dastyari said some of the companies who gave testimony last month to the inquiry could find themselves in contempt of parliament should they be found to have given misleading evidence.

At hearings on April 8, executives from Apple, Google, and Microsoft confirmed that they are all currently being investigated by the ATO.

During that hearing, Apple's Australian managing director Tony King said that Apple Australia is entirely owned by Apple Ireland, but insisted that the company does pay tax in Australia, and claimed not to know of the so-called Double Irish-Dutch Sandwich process of minimising taxation for multinational corporations.

Apple announced last week that the company may be forced to pay a "material" amount of tax back to Ireland if the European Commission finds the company guilty of striking up special tax deals with the Irish government.

The claims made by the executives of Apple, Google, and Microsoft were questioned by Australian Taxation Commissioner Chris Jordan.

Jordan said the ATO is working to decide whether profits earned by Microsoft from Australian businesses, but booked in Singapore -- around AU$2 billion, with AU$100 million remaining in Australia -- is an appropriate split of revenue.

"We further understand that much of this Singapore profit paid out as technology fees ends up in Microsoft Bermuda," he said.

The commissioner also questioned Google's statement that Australian revenue from advertising is booked and taxed in Singapore. The ATO believes that the majority of profits made in Australia end up in Bermuda, where no tax is paid.

"It's certainly possible that information that has been provided that's incorrect and the commission has made it very clear that he feels that in many cases, companies went out of their way to try and spin and give us information that wasn't quite, in his opinion, accurate," Dastyari told the ABC on Monday.

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