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Australia joins hunt for corporate tax dodgers

Name and shame plan floated in election year

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Australia's government has signalled it will try to publish details of how much tax multinationals pay in the island nation.

Australia's Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury last year explained, and bemoaned, the “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich” used by the likes of Google to minimise the amount of tax they pay. Microsoft and other technology companies are known to book revenue for sales in Australia with offshore entities.

International efforts have since started to make it harder to use such arrangements, which while legal do not reflect the intent of the law.

Like most nations, Australia could use some more cash right now and international companies are a softer political target than local firms. Bradbury has therefore announced he will seek “ways to improve the sharing of tax information between the Australian Taxation Office and other key corporate regulators” so they can add up how much cash multinationals have paid in local taxes. Once those sums are done, the government is thinking about publishing the results of its sums.

"Large multinational companies that use complex arrangements and contrived corporate structures to avoid paying their fair share of tax should not be able to hide behind a veil of secrecy,” Bradbury says in a press release.

Australia will have a national election on September 14th and the current government is not expected to survive. Bradbury's announcement says the government is acting “... with a view to introducing any necessary legislative changes this year.” If the government is serious about that statement, Australia's Parliamentary calendar suggests it will need to pass the legislation before late June, a handful of days before Australia's new financial year commences on July 1st.

Whether a published register of taxes paid will shame multinationals into changing their ways is unknowable, as is whether consumers will vote with their wallets to ensure their hard-earned goes to enterprises that pay more. An easier prediction to make might be that Australia's register of donations to political parties might include more technology companies next year. ®

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