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Australia to reveal tech giants' tax tricks

Opening up the Dutch sandwich to reveal the shameful ingredients

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Australia's assistant treasurer David Bradbury has outlined a plan to make the ingredients of the infamous “Double Irish Dutch Sandwich” – a recipe for tax minimisation used by tech giants - known to all, so that the public can understand just what the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google are up to.

Bradbury yesterday released a Discussion Paper titled "Improving the transparency of Australia’s business tax system" that frames the issue of multinational tax avoidance as one that goes to the very heart of democracy.

"Tax systems that rely on voluntary compliance require strong public confidence," the paper says. "If the community feels that the tax system is not fair, there could be heightened efforts to avoid tax."

"The apparent ease with which some large corporate entities can shift taxable profits and erode a country’s tax base is shaping up as a shared concern for the G20 and most OECD countries," the paper continues, before outlining a response that would see Australia's taxation authorities "... publish limited tax return information of corporate tax entities with total income of $AUD100 million or more."

The paper also proposes to reveal the "total income" of companies, including revenue earned in Australia and offshore.

“The government intends to improve transparency around how much tax large enterprises are paying. We want to make sure that large multinational companies are paying their fair share,” Bradbury said, adding that establishing the revenue and tax paid by these companies shouldn't be “a guessing game”.

While neither Bradbury or the prime minister singled out Google, the Chocolate Factory has come under fire for years. Last November, it was revealed that Google Australia coughed up less than a million dollars to the taxman on revenue of more than a billion.

Google is under similar scrutiny in the UK, where it's been accused of putting about $US1 billion into the Dutch sandwich.

Microsoft and Apple have also come under fire over their taxation arrangements, with their representatives at the the recent inquiry into IT pricing fielding questions on the matter. ®

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