The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has declared there is little evidence of multinational tax evasion, despite several major international cases.
- In the past year, the ATO has not conducted any reports into multinational tax evasion
- Dutch investigators launch major inquiry into Credit Suisse Group
- ATO says special taskforce has recouped nearly $100 million for Government’s coffers
Technology giant Oracle and Credit Suisse are among the major companies that have been fined for breaking overseas tax laws.
But in Australia, the ATO thinks there is little proof multinational corporations are evading their tax obligations, according to a freedom of information (FOI) investigation.
“We have not seen significant evidence of large multinationals involved in tax evasion,” the agency wrote in a letter to the ABC.
In the past year, it has not conducted any reviews or reports into the issue and is not considering any measures or policies to deal with tax evasion, according to the letter.
In a statement, the ATO said it did “vigorously examine” the tax affairs of multinationals.
“The ATO will pursue these matters through the courts if necessary to uphold the integrity of Australia’s tax system.”
Dutch investigators have launched a major inquiry into tax evasion and money laundering involving the Credit Suisse Group that spans five countries including Australia, and US oil and gas giant Chevron faces one of the largest tax bills in Australian history, after losing a court case over its tax avoidance.
The ATO said it was interviewing individuals and bank employees identified in the Credit Suisse case as part of its investigation.
Tax avoidance and tax evasion have different legal meanings, with the latter requiring criminal intent.
Crackdown on multinational companies
The ATO’s admission comes as the Federal Government cracks down on multinational companies avoiding their tax obligations in Australia.
The so-called “Google tax” was passed into law last month and gave the ATO new powers to enforce tax laws on major companies.
The Government said at the time it could help recoup $2 billion in revenue.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the new law would levy a 40 per cent tax penalty on those who broke the rules.
The ATO said it did have a unit to deal with tax evasion.
“[The] Serious Financial Crime Taskforce deals with tax evasion activities,” the ATO wrote in its response to the ABC.
The Australian Federal Police is also a member of the taskforce and claims on its website it is targeting international tax evasion.
It said the taskforce had recouped nearly $100 million for the Government’s coffers since July 2015 and has conducted 421 audits.
This may suggest the taskforce is targeting individuals and smaller companies, rather than large multinational corporations.