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Nearly 600 Companies Paid No Tax In Australia Last Year

Financial accounting
Financial accounting

Almost 600 large public and foreign companies in Australia paid no tax last year, figures form the Australian Taxation Office show.

The data, which covers more than 1,500 companies with annual incomes of more than $100 million, shows 960 companies did pay tax, while 579 companies did not.

The ATO says no tax paid does not necessarily mean companies have been engaged in tax avoidance. The ATO also notes that the past 10 years, 20 to 30 percent of the comparable grouping of ASX 500 companies has reported a net loss to their shareholders in any given year.

Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan said releasing the data helped build community trust in the taxation system.

"And tax should matter to these companies. It is not something to be taken lightly," he said.

"Collectively, these 1,500 large corporates paid almost $40 billion in company tax in the 2014 fiscal year."

The ATO raises about $2 billion through investigating companies suspected of not paying their fair share of tax, he said, adding most domestic Australian companies meet their tax obligations despite significant disputes.

"Large corporates now have to consider the impact of their tax information as a factor in managing their reputation with the markets, their shareholders, their consumers and in the Australian community."

The data shows technology giant Apple paid just over 74 million in tax in 2013-14, about 1 percent of its total taxable income of $6.1 billion.Meanwhile Google paid $9 million in tax, or 3 percent of its total income of about $358 million.

Among the large companies that did not pay tax in the 2013-14 financial year were Qantas, Virgin Australia, Vodafone, and media company Ten Network Holdings. Both Qantas and Ten reported losses in that financial year.

Qantas reported a $2.84 billion loss in that financial year, while the Ten Network lost almost $80 million.

ASX data show that more than 20 per cent of companies make an accounting loss in any given year. No tax paid does not necessarily mean tax avoidance.

The figures also show mining giant BHP Billiton paid 10 per cent tax on its income of more than $40 billion, while Rio Tinto paid 9 percent tax on its income of almost $34 billion.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the figures show Australia has a revenue problem, driven by corporate tax avoidance.

“The question for Malcolm Turnbull is whether he is too afraid to go after your friends in the big end of town,” she said in a statement.

“Mr Turnbull has to decide whether he wants to address the budget deficit by going after corporate tax dodgers and closing corporate tax loopholes, or will he continue to take from working families, with cuts to health and other services and an increased GST.”

Peter Burn, head of policy at the Australian Industry Group said business was wary of the data, while the tax office urged caution over its use.

Mr Burn said some companies have faced circumstances in which they have not had to pay tax.

"Manufacturing companies for example have been doing it pretty tough over the last several years, and many of those wouldn't have made a profit for a while, and they will have had accumulated losses," he told the ABC.

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