Alan Joyce Qantas
Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce

The Business Council of Australia’s members have decided that, if the electorate won’t give them a 25% tax rate, they’re only going to pay that anyway.

The 2016-17 corporate tax data released by the Australian Tax Office yesterday shows, on average, the BCA membership paid just 25.3% in tax on taxable income. That’s only marginally up on the 24-25% BCA members have paid in years past, despite Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issuing a media release yesterday insisting the “government’s plan to ensure big businesses pay their fair share of tax is working”.

In fact, the government’s claims to be increasing the multinational tax take look ridiculous: 43 of the BCA’s members — five more than in years past — paid no tax at all despite earning income of nearly $125 billion. Non-payers include energy giants Shell, Exxon and Chevron, as well as Santos, Energy Australia, Stockland and one of the country’s top monopoly gougers, Sydney Airport — all of them reported no taxable income at all.

Others, including News Corp, Qantas, Origin, BAE and Amcor reported tens of billions in taxable income but were able to avoid tax by using tax losses from previous years — even though Qantas and Origin were both in the top 20 income-generating companies reported by the ATO. Another four BCA members paid less than 10% tax; another eleven paid between 10-20%.

However, 17 BCA members paid the full rate on their taxable income, shelling out 29.99% or more, including Credit Suisse, Tata Consulting, Microsoft, BHP’s iron ore division, Deutsche Bank, Citbank and JB Hifi. Bear in mind, however, that their taxable income may be dramatically lower than it should be due to profit-shifting and other base erosion techniques — the total taxable income of those paying the full rate was just 18% of their total income.

Out of the all companies reported by the ATO — which we’re only able to see because of changes to reporting laws introduced by Labor right before they lost office, and which the Coalition tried to block — including BCA members, taxable income amounted to 10% of total income.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey