Australia targets 30 multinationals in tax crackdown

Tue May 12, 2015 6:58am EDT
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By Matt Siegel

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia on Tuesday proposed new legislation to tighten tax loopholes that the conservative government says have allowed around 30 of the world's largest multinational companies to avoid paying taxes.

Under the proposals, released as part of Australia's 2015/16 federal budget, companies with more than A$1 billion in global revenues that are found to have intentionally avoided paying tax in Australia could be pursued for lost taxes.

With the new measures Australia will join Britain in leading a crackdown on companies such as global tech giants (GOOGL.O: Quote),

Apple (AAPL.O: Quote) and Microsoft (MSFT.O: Quote), focusing particularly on their alleged shifting of profits from high-tax countries to low or no tax regimes.

"We have identified 30 large multinational companies that may have diverted profits away from Australia to avoid paying their fair share of tax in Australia," Treasurer Joe Hockey told parliament.

"Under this new law, when we catch companies cheating, they will have to pay back double what they owe, plus interest."

Under Australia's leadership last year, the Group of 20 leading economies (G20) endorsed a set of common standards of sharing bank account information across borders with automatic exchange of information among its members.

The Australian units of Google, Apple and Microsoft revealed earlier this year they were "under review" by the Australian Tax Office (ATO), which had declined to renew agreements with the companies on transfer pricing.   Continued...

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey holds a news conference after a meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington October 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst