MEDIA COMMENT: ATO ‘week of action’ welcome but more work needed to lift veil of tax secrecy

Media Releases article written on the 06 Sep 2016

Responding to the Australian Tax Office Commissioner statement regarding a ‘week of action’ following the Panama Papers leaks, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:

“Oxfam welcomes the strong and swift action by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) on multinational tax avoidance, though more needs to be done by the Government on tax transparency.

“Our recent research found tax-dodging practices by multinationals deprived the nation’s public coffers of as much as AU$6 billion in 2014 alone; and we know that one in three large companies reported on by the ATO in 2014 paid no tax in that financial year.

Oxfam is concerned that the Australian Government is proposing the sale of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) register on company ownership – this is a crucial piece of infrastructure required to combat tax avoidance.

“The sale of this register will jeopardise Australia’s tax base, because there is reduced public accountability to prevent the setting up of ‘shell companies’, and this makes it harder to hold company owners to account.

“To achieve tax transparency the Australian Government also needs to make the tax affairs of large Australian-based multinationals public – not only for their operations in Australia, but for every country in which they operate.

“The Government must modify legislation, so large multinationals are required to publicly declare income, profits, and tax paid in each country where they operate. It is crucial to have publicly accountable corporations in the 21st century.

Similar legislation is already in place in the United States, Canada, and Europe for high-risk sectors and reports from the United Kingdom this week suggest their government is moving forward on public country-by-country reporting. Australia should follow this lead.”

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