Apple, Google Likely To Face The Senate Over Alleged Tax Dodging

Accountants and lawyers at the Australian offices of Google, Apple and Amazon had better dust off their best suits: soon enough they're going to be dragged in front of a Senate inquiry into alleged tax avoidance activities.

Money picture from Shutterstock

That's right: a formal Senate inquiry into tax minimisation from big multinational corporations operating in Australia has been slated for next year.

Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, today moved a motion that tax minimisation regimes operated by large multinational corporations be examined by the Senate Economics References Committee to "deter tax avoidance and provide assurance that all companies are complying fully with Australia‘s tax laws".

The Greens party has told Gizmodo Australia that it expects to call witnesses including Google, Amazon and Apple to give evidence on their tax minimisation activities in Australia, after multiple reports of alleged tax dodging in the last few reporting periods.

Here are the full terms of reference laid out by Senator Milne today:

"I move that the following matter be referred to the Economics References Committee for inquiry and report by the first sitting day of June 2015:
Tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia, with specific reference to:
• the adequacy of Australia‘s current laws; • any need for greater transparency to deter tax avoidance and provide assurance that all companies are complying fully with Australia‘s tax laws; • The broader economic impacts of this behaviour, • beyond the direct effect on government revenue; • the opportunities to collaborate internationally and/or act unilaterally to address the problem; • the performance and capability of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to investigate and launch litigation, in the wake of drastic budget cuts to staffing numbers; • the role and performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in working with corporations and supporting the ATO to protect public revenue; • any relevant recommendations or issues arising from the Government‘s White Paper process on the ‘Reform of Australia‘s Tax System‘;
and any other related matters.

As mentioned in the terms of reference, the inquiry will kick off in the Senate in June next year.

While the Greens doesn't have a senator on the Economics References Committee, it has indicated to Gizmodo Australia in a statement this afternoon that its members will come on as participating members as required.

The last time these big tech companies were compelled to appear before MPs and Senators was during the IT Pricing Inquiry chaired by backbencher Nick Champion.

Apple, Adobe and Microsoft were all compelled to give evidence at the IT Pricing Inquiry, and were quizzed on why the trio thought it was appropriate to charge more for goods, services and entertainment products in Australia versus those prices paid by overseas consumers.

The spiritual successor of the IT Pricing Inquiry was a parliamentary discussion on the tax liability of large companies, with federal IT crusader and Member for Chifley, Ed Husic MP, raising the issue of Apple's tax minimisation activities in parliament as far back as February 2013.

The ATO has been pursuing companies like Google and Apple over the practise of tax minimisation and transfer pricing since mid-last year. In another vector of the attack, Treasurer Joe Hockey has formally pledged to address the issue of multinational tax minimisation from large companies with his G20 counterparts.


Comments

    Accountants and lawyers at Google’s, Apple’s and Amazon’s Australian office had better dust off their best suits: they’re about to be dragged in front of a Senate Inquiry into alleged tax dodging activities.

    Fat lot of good that's gonna do. No matter who's in office (Labor or the Coalition), it will be just shoved into the "Too Hard" basket and we'll just have committee after committee to create the illusion they are doing something.

    Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne

    Is there anything she and her bunch won't try inserting themselves into? They are only there now because it's gone quiet on the Asylum Seeker front.

    any need for greater transparency to deter tax avoidance and provide assurance that all companies are complying fully with Australia‘s tax laws

    As if companies care. If they did, we'd see fairer pricing already.

    There is no deterring them, Milne. If they can maximise their profits, they will.

    the opportunities to collaborate internationally and/or act unilaterally to address the problem

    Good luck with that. Like my comments to Hockey, it's pretty darn rich to expect foreign nations to just turn own the funds Apple and Google are putting into their economy just so they pay tax to Australia.

    Finally, Treasurer Joe Hockey has formally pledged to address the issue of multinational tax minimisation from large companies with his G20 counterparts.

    I hope you have some cigars left over, Hockey. You have a better chance getting the budget through as is than pulling that off.

    Last edited 02/10/14 5:25 pm

    Is there anything she and her bunch won't try inserting themselves into? They are only there now because it's gone quiet on the Asylum Seeker front.

    The Greens do seem to be the only ones at the moment who have clearly defined policies with a plan for the way forward. They are also the only ones who contested the new privacy (sorry "security") laws that were just passed in the senate.

    Good luck with that. Like my comments to Hockey, it's pretty darn rich to expect foreign nations to just turn own the funds Apple and Google are putting into their economy just so they pay tax to Australia.

    Other countries are having the same issues ... I seem to remember a similar investigation being reported on recently where the UK was also investigating Apple for tax avoidance. I doubt any country is profiting from the methods they are using. The money will be going straight into their own pockets ... otherwise ... there is no incentive to do it.

      The Greens do seem to be the only ones at the moment who have clearly defined policies with a plan for the way forward.

      Actually, they don't. All they do is criticise and then codify the critisism into something that looks like a policy.

      As a whole, the Greens are basically professional attention seekers and cause disruption wherever they go.

      And if they don't get their way, they call for a enquiry and/or scream a conspiracy is at foot.

    Oh and how did the Australian IT Pricing senate hearing go.... those companies pretty much walked in and said they can do what they want cause its legal. Tax dodging is still legal, if it wasnt, ATO would be taking them down....

    then again ATO went after Rupert Murdoch, and lost...

    The worse part, is all these corporations are buddy buddy with the government, trying to get their way with things like Copyright Laws, Business incentives, Free Trade Agreements, Deregulation of their business sectors... and then they turn around and not pay for it and cost the Australian Government in billions of taxes by shifting their money in clever accounting practices is so unfair.

      then again ATO went after Rupert Murdoch, and lost...

      That's because News Corp play by the same book as Google and others.

        they went after paul hogan too and lost, yet if they went after you or me we would be screwed because we cant afford the lawyers that those guys can

    The reason for tax laws exist, is to let big companies dodge tax. Haven't you read Rich Dad Poor Dad? They are "legally" dodging tax, unless their accountant made a mistake, otherwise the government would find nothing.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now