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United Voice report sparks inquiry into corporate tax avoidance

Last week our report, Who Pays for our Common Wealth: Tax Practices of the ASX 200, sent shockwaves through Australian media and politics.

Story after story appeared on front pages, on television, on radio. The Federal Parliament heard our call and that very week the Senate voted to launch an inquiry into corporate tax avoidance. You can read our media release on this news here.

In Partnership with the Tax Justice Network, our report uncovered how Australia’s biggest companies use loopholes and secrecy jurisdictions (also known as tax havens) to avoid paying their fair share of tax. In fact, our report revealed that a whopping 29% of ASX 200 companies pay a tax rate of 10% or less – not the legislated corporate tax rate of 30%.

“The community will be shocked to learn that many of Australia’s largest corporations can legally eliminate the need to pay tax at all or reduce their tax bill to 10% or less,” said David O’Byrne, National Secretary of United Voice, upon the release of the report.  

While some practices may be legal, it doesn’t make them fair. As tax revenues from businesses shrink, ordinary people have to bear the brunt of cuts to jobs and services as government’s attempt to make up for the shortfall.
NSW member and hospitality worker Anthony Carlson travelled to Canberra with David O’Byrne to brief Members of Parliament and Senators on how corporate tax avoidance impacts United Voice members. “Our members don’t run the country, but we keep the country running. We’re pay as you earn taxpayers – we can’t and we don’t dodge our obligations,” he said.  “Taxation is the price of a civilised society… it buys us services: health, education, low cost housing and security.” You can read Anthony’s story on the “This Working Life” blog here.

David O’Byrne called for “A full Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s corporate tax system…  in order to get to the bottom of the problem and to investigate solutions for ensuring that our corporate tax system is working as it should.”

The worst offenders hurriedly denied they were doing anything wrong – but a number of corporate leaders, like Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder, said that they believed in paying a fair share of tax. Billionaire Gerry Harvey said he consistently disregards advice to dodge tax because paying your fair share of tax is a moral issue.

All in all, a great week’s work and an important step towards a fairer tax system and better services for all Australians.