Companies would be forced to disclose use of havens to shareholders in a bid to improve transparency
A Labor government would publish sensitive information about where and how much tax is paid by large multinational corporations each year in a bid to crack down on global tax evasion, the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, says.
Labor would also force companies to disclose their tax haven exposure to shareholders, revealing how much business they are conducting in known or suspected tax havens.
Bowen, and the shadow assistant treasurer, Andrew Leigh, have released details about Labor’s latest tax transparency package.
They want to “radically increase” transparency on the use of tax havens by corporations and high net-worth individuals.
Tax havens hold an estimated $7.5 trillion of the world’s financial wealth, they said, costing the global economy $200bn in lost taxes every year, so aggressive tax minimisation requires greater public oversight.
A Labor government would publicly release detailed country-by-country reports of the taxes multinationals pay (with over $1bn in global revenue) in different jurisdictions.
At the moment, the Turnbull government has signed up to an OECD plan to require multinationals to provide country-by-country reports to the Australian Tax Office, but there is no requirement for the information to be made public.
Labor wants to make that information publicly accessible.
It says the number of entities affected by the proposal is not currently available because information on multinational companies’ global revenue has not yet been fully reported to the ATO.
According to the 2014-15 Report of Entity Tax Information, there are approximately 300 companies that had total Australian income in excess of $1bn.
Labor also wants to provide protection for whistleblowers who report on entities evading tax to the ATO.
Under Labor’s plan, individuals who highlight tax avoidance behaviour, tax evasion, aggressive tax planning, and other tax issues, could collect a share of the penalty collected (capped at $250,000, or 1% of the penalty figure, whichever is higher), with the reward to be taxable as ordinary income.
Labor says employers who take adverse action against whistleblowers would face two years in jail and an $18,000 fine, and whistleblowers would be able to take civil action for reinstatement and compensation.
Other measures in Labor’s tax plan include publicly reporting Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) data on international cash flows, and requiring all firms tendering for Australian Government contracts worth over $200,000 to state their country of domicile for tax purposes.
“Labor remains committed to transparency measures and has worked with stakeholders on appropriate measures to ensure multinational tax dodgers have nowhere to hide,” Bowen said.
The details of the tax transparency package follow Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech on Thursday evening.
Shorten said Labor would introduce a $3,000 cap on deductions that individuals and businesses could claim for managing their tax affairs.
He said the measure would delivers $1.8bn to the budget over the medium term, and would affect roughly 90,000 people (less than 1% of all taxpayers).
The proposal has been slammed by the Coalition, the big business community, and accountants, as has Shorten’s proposal to introduce different rates of the Medicare levy for lower and higher incomes.
Shorten wants to keep the deficit levy in place for high-income earners, and have only middle-to-high income earners pay an extra 0.5% Medicare levy, leading to an increase in the top marginal tax rate from 47.5% to 49.5%.
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, former prime minister Paul Keating criticised Shorten’s tax plan.
“I believe the top rate of tax in Australia should be no higher than 39% at the most,” he told AFR Weekend.
“I reduced the top marginal rate from 67% to 47% just on 30 years ago and here we are now having it go to 47.5% or, if Labor had its way, to 49.5%.
“This is too punitive a level, where the state is confiscating almost half of people’s income over $180,000.”