The Australian Tax Office, under increasing pressure from community groups and unions to shed light on tax evasion by the corporate sector, has once again published data on companies privately owned in Australia.
This complements data published last year on publicly-listed companies (those that issue shares and are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange). (For our earlier comment, see: http://www.cpaml.org/people3.php?id=275 )
A similar list was published in 2015 for the 2012-13 tax year, showing that one in five private companies with an income of over $100 million paid no tax.
This led to a huge outcry against corporate tax evasion and led the government, with Greens support, to change the criterion for inclusion on the list from an income of over $100m to an income of over $200m. This shielded some 500-600 companies from public scrutiny in the latest round and thus considerably understates the avoidance in the corporate sector. Even so, 98 of the top 321 private companies are now known to have paid no tax in 2013-14.
The biggest revenue earner not to pay tax was West Australian grain handling cooperative
CBH, which paid no company tax in 2013-14 on more than $3.4 billion in revenue.
Among the other largest private companies that paid no tax in 2013–14 were:
• Pratt Consolidated Holdings, despite more than $2.5 billion in revenue;
• Thorney Investments, run by Richard Pratt's son-in-law Alex Waislitz, which earned $430 million in revenue;
• Hoyts, which had $417 million in gross earnings;
• McDonald's Asia-Pacific Consortium (MAC), the global supplier of the fast food outlet's beef, which had $478 million in revenue.
Of the remainder, most made use of legislative loopholes to avoid paying their full tax liability.
With a corporate tax rate of 30%, many paid only a fraction of that amount. Examples include:
• Harry Triguboff's Meriton, which paid almost $76 million in company tax from $1.19 billion in revenue;
• Perron Investments, owned by Western Australian property and automotive tycoon Stan Perron, which paid $47 million from $484 million in revenue;
• Linfox, owned by trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, which paid nearly $34 million from $2.02 billion in gross earnings.
The ATO, which comes down hard on any wage-earner who tries to avoid paying tax, warned that “not paying tax does not equate to tax avoidance” and that “wealthy Australians made a substantial contribution to the nation’s economy”.
We say that big corporations avoiding their responsibility to pay tax epitomise the selfishness and greed of the capitalist system.
We say that big corporations avoiding their responsibility to pay tax are thieves stealing from social funds for education, health and social welfare services.
We say that big corporations avoiding their responsibility to pay tax will lead more and more Australians to struggle for anti-imperialist independence and socialism.
Years ago our party advanced the tactical slogan “Make the Rich Pay”. It was based on the premise that the rich weren’t paying enough for the social programs of the people. It now transpires that the rich constantly strive, and often successfully, to pay nothing at all.
As an immediate demand, “Make the Rich Pay….something, anything” still resonates.
However, the days when we continue to tolerate the rich at all are drawing to a close.
The enormous wealth that the Australian people generate is wasted on the big local and foreign corporations.
It is wasted on the 1% of high net worth (investable assets of at least $US1 million) and ultra-high net worth (investable assets of at least $US50 million) individuals, of whom Australia has more than its share.
It is wasted by being diverted from production to satisfy basic needs to speculation in the great global financial casino.
In time, we will transition from “Make the Rich Pay” to “Overthrow the 1% and organise and run the place ourselves”!