lifestyle

Hundreds of companies earn over $100 million a year and pay no tax.

Recently I learnt that I pay more tax than 38 per cent of public companies that earn over $100 million in Australia.

They earn $100 million or more, and over a third of them paid no tax at all in the 2013-14 financial year. None.

I earn more than the median wage, but I’m no one percenter. I pay about $15,000 in income tax. So 38 per cent of those big earners pay less than $15,000 in tax.

What a joke.

I am not going to pretend that I hate paying tax. I like paying tax. It’s important. Without taxes, there would be no social services, no law enforcement, no public education or healthcare, and no public transport and roads.

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I think multi-million dollar companies should be paying a lot more tax than me. Image via iStock.

Taxes are the building blocks of our society. So, yes, I happily pay my taxes, even though there are some things I’d rather they not pay for, like offshore prisons full of refugees.

What I don’t like is that there are companies earning incredibly large amounts of money (extreme Dr Evil voice: ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS) here and not paying their taxes.

Before anyone says “hang on, these companies give people jobs and they build the economy, we should be grateful that they are here at all”, I would point out that multi-million dollar companies don’t exist in a vacuum. They benefit from all those things I was talking about before.

Roads and infrastructure, education, healthcare: The things our taxes pay for make it possible for these companies to make money. And a peaceful, secure country thanks to law enforcement and defence make Australia a place they can feel confident about building their businesses.

No, there is no way you can slice this that would convince me these companies shouldn’t be paying more tax than me. I think they should be paying a LOT more tax than me.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says Australia has a spending problem, and the government is considering raising the GST as part of the solution.

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Scott Morrison recently met with his state and territory colleagues to discuss plans for economic growth. Image via Twitter: @ScottMorrisonMP.
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How about we get these companies to start paying their taxes instead? It might not solve the whole problem, but it would be a good start.

The idea behind the current income tax system is that it’s progressive. The more you earn, the more you’re supposed to pay. That’s because as a society we agree that those who earn more can afford to pay more. These big companies aren’t pulling their weight.

The government should be making them. Instead of cutting funding for things like Medicare-funded pap-smears and blood tests, let’s collect at least SOME tax dollars from the 583 companies that didn’t pay any tax at all, maybe?

Some of these companies have simply complied with the law — they made a loss or they had other reasons for not paying tax — but Australia’s Tax Commissioner told Fairfax that some companies were attempting to shirk their responsibilities.

“Any companies with unusual financial or taxation numbers are closely investigated by the ATO… We do have some significant disputes with some of them,” Chris Jordan said.

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Companies need to pay their taxes too. Image via Twitter: @ato_gov_au.

“Some of these foreign-owned companies are overly aggressive in the way they structure their operations.”

Companies should pay their taxes. The transparency afforded by this list enables us to see who isn’t.

“Large corporates now have to consider the impact of their tax information as a factor in managing their reputation with the markets, their shareholders, their consumers and in the Australian community,” Jordan said.

So get informed. Start asking questions. Tax reform, and who pays what tax, might sound like a boring topic but it matters.

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