Almost 100 Australian companies collectively earned over $47 billion in 2013-14 but paid no tax, according to new transparency data released by the Australian Taxation Office this week.

The data, made available for the first time this year following tax transparency laws passed last year, show the top 321 privately held companies collectively earned more than $145 billion in the 2013-14 financial year, with taxable income of $8.1 billion and total tax payable of $2 billion, with an additional $1.6 billion payable by their associated entities.

The report reveals that 98 Australian companies earning over $200 million paid no tax in the year, including CBH Grain — the largest earner on the entire list — which had revenues of more than $3 billion, Pratt consolidated Holdings, at $2.5 billion, and Hoyts, at $417 million.

That is not to say that those 98 companies were in the wrong for not paying tax in 2013-14. ATO Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan said yesterday that no tax paid did not necessarily mean tax avoidance. Their associated entities could have paid tax owed (Jordan said the associated entities of the 98 companies collectively paid $700 million in tax for the year). There are other reasons companies might not pay tax, including not making a profit, offsetting previous losses, and offsetting business investments against profits.

The largest taxpayer in the financial year was Hancock Prospecting, which paid $466 million in tax off an income of $2.8 billion and a taxable income of $1.5 billion. It was third-highest in percentage of tax payable as a percentage of total income, behind Interlink Roads, and Kin Group.

Labor slammed the Greens last year for making a deal with the Coalition to report taxation information for privately owned companies with revenues of more than $200 million, because the ALP had been arguing that by raising the disclosure threshold to $200 million instead of $100 million, hundreds of companies would be excluded from reporting their information. The government had originally intended to abolish the reporting requirement entirely, on the flimsy grounds that if the tax data were reported, it could potentially lead to the executives of privately held companies being harassed or threatened.

The one company to raise the threat was part-US-owned meat company Teys Australia. Many of the entities associated with Teys have now been forced to report their earnings. For the four Teys companies, the total revenue for 2013-2014 was $2 billion, and the four companies paid a total of $54.1 million in tax for the year.

The data dump yesterday follows a similar list of the tax paid by public and foreign-owned companies with income over $100 million published by the ATO last year.

Peter Fray

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