Australia to Tighten up on Tax Reporting by Multinationals

Australia plans to compel major multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Google and Apple to disclose their tax arrangements in an effort to curb alleged tax avoidance. The proposed measures will mean that companies with annual revenues above A$100m will be required to published their tax details.

The increasingly borderless global economy means big firms often have no tax liability in a country, even with a major local presence, the government’s assistant treasurer David Bradbury announced. “The government intends to improve transparency around how much tax large enterprises are paying,” he said. “This should not be a guessing game.We want to make sure that large MNCs are paying their fair share.”

Australia’s corporate tax rate is 30%, compared with 12.5% in Ireland. MNCs operating in Australia, including the local arm of Google, have been accused of shifting income to other countries to benefit from a lower rate. Apple has also come under parliamentary scrutiny over local pricing structures, which mean consumers can pay more for downloading software than in some other countries.

The proposed measures would affect about 2,000 large and multinational businesses, including miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. The latter is one of a number of companies that have already voluntarily begun publishing their tax details, expanding on information in existing financial statements.

Australia’s minority Labor government last year released draft revisions to tax laws to stop profit-shifting in line with a push by Britain and Germany, and discussions last year within the Group of 20 (G20) major economies. The revisions, opposed by opposition conservatives, will be voted on by parliament after the 14 May budget, with the government requiring support from a handful of independents and Greens who hold the balance of power.

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