A top bureaucrat likened the resources sector to professional athletes who use illicit or performance-enhancing substances.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) was recently frustrated about always pursuing employers that allegedly avoid sharing the mining boom. This is why the revenue collection authority wants to start measuring tax minimisation based on the number of times a company is audited, instead of the outcome.
“Audit yield is no longer the paradigm [like with] drug cheats at the Olympics,” ATO commissioner Chris Jordan said according to Fairfax Media.
“There is no point settling with these companies and then having to do it all over again.”
The remarks came after Rio Tinto agreed to pay an extra $991 million to settle a long-running dispute over its Singapore marketing hub.
The deal involved paying the ATO $613M dating back to 2010. A further $378M was paid when assessments were originally amended.
“Resources companies have started paying tax,” Jordan said according to the media outlet.
“Who knows, marketing hubs may not be that relevant in five years.”
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) rejected any link between resources producers and athletic drug users.
“The commissioner of taxation’s reference to resource groups and Olympic drug cheats is disappointing and factually incorrect in relation to the minerals industry,” MCA CEO Tania Constable said in a public statement.
“In the last decade the mining industry contributed $254 billion in company tax and royalties. Furthermore, the ATO’s own data released in December 2021 (ATO corporate tax transparency report) showed that the minerals industry contributed more than 40 per cent of all the company tax reported by the 2370 large entities.”
Constable also dismissed any suggestion that mining giants ignore tax obligations unless their finances are investigated.
“The commissioner implies that if not for ATO audit activity tax settlements reached with Rio Tinto and BHP would not have occurred. This is incorrect,” she said.
“Matters settled in those cases were raised by the taxpayers with the ATO in the normal course of flagging issues where the tax treatment is not clear cut. In the case of the issues settled with Rio Tinto, the marketing hub matters were first raised by them with the ATO in 2005.”
However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese still pledged unlimited government resources to make mining companies pay more.
“The tax office will be doing their job. We will be providing them with all the resources they need,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“We want to make sure that people who have been avoiding paying their fair share of tax do the right thing and … look at the ordinary pay as you earn taxpayers out there working nine to five, Monday to Friday, or working different hours who are paying their fair share of tax – that is them being ripped off.”
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