What’s that Skippy? Google’s coughed up $330m in tax Down Under?

Before you gasp, settlement does cover audit of a full decade

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has scooped A$481.5m (£252.3m, $330m) in back taxes from ad giant Google, its latest victory scored against big technology businesses including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.

The settlement has taken the tax collector's backtaxes barrel to AU$1.25bn: Apple coughed up AU$630m back in 2017 while Microsoft also saw its tax bill jump.

The ATO's Tax Avoidance Taskforce has used the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law to target firms re-routing Australian sales via offshore subsidiaries.

The new law has brought A$7bn in taxable sales being booked as Australian revenues and therefore taxed appropriately. Diverting revenues to territories with more favourable tax regimes is a common tactic for multinational technology companies – see Apple's ongoing row with the European Commission over its Irish tax bill for details.

Ireland map, photo via Shutterstock

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Deputy Commissioner Mark Konza said: "This settlement is another great outcome for the Australian Tax System. It adds to the significant success of the ATO in positively changing the behaviour of digital taxpayers and significantly increasing the tax they pay in Australia.

"The extension of the Taskforce until 2023 will ensure that the ATO is able to continue to pursue these issues..."

Google sent us a statement: "We have reached a $481.5million (AUD) settlement with the Australian Taxation Office that resolves the longstanding dispute and audit covering 2008 to 2018. The settlement will also provide certainty in relation to future tax treatment."

The tax inspectors also said today they have asked to add another five years to a data-sharing agreement with insurers who cover yachts, thoroughbred horses, fine art, high value classic cars and private aircraft – what they term as "lifestyle assets".

Deputy commissioner Deborah Jenkins displayed typical Aussie understatement: "If a taxpayer is reporting a taxable income of $70,000 to us but we know they own a three million dollar yacht then this is likely to raise some red flags."

The agreement has been in place since 2016 and Jenkins made clear the data would not lead to automated compliance checks. ®

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