Corporations involved in tax avoidance need to be named and shamed, a parliamentary committee says.
An interim report from the Senate standing committee on economics, titled “You cannot tax what you cannot see”, makes 17 recommendations, including that the government work with other countries with “marketing hub” activity to improve transparency.
It wants an annual public report on “aggressive tax minimisation and avoidance activities” tabled in the parliament and a mandatory tax reporting code for any Australian corporation with an annual turnover above a certain figure.
The government has ruled out naming and shaming companies, but Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the Tax Office is going after these companies.
Mr Frydenberg responded to the committee’s recommendations on Monday morning, despite the interim report only being tabled late on Tuesday.
The contents of the report were leaked to the media at the weekend, which is against parliamentary rules and has infuriated senators.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon said there needs to be an inquiry into how the recommendations were leaked, fearing the breach could lead to sloppiness in dealing with confidential information.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has pointed the finger at Labor senator and committee chairman Sam Dastyari, while his Liberal committee colleague Sean Edwards claimed the inquiry report was “whored out” for personal gain.
Senator Edwards said he “felt there had been great damage done” and referred the matter to the Senate president.
However Senator Dastyari said he did not believe the recommendations were controversial.
None of the evidence presented to the committee detailed illegal behaviour, he said.
“The questions that people are asking is, ‘How is this type of behaviour legal?'” he said.
Senator Edwards said the government’s dissenting report was issued because most recommendations in the report were things the coalition had already addressed or had no intention of addressing.
The dissenting report states coalition senators have deep concerns about some of the recommendations and say the interim report fails to recognise the strong action the government has taken.
“The government is committed to ensuring companies pay tax on profits properly attributable to profit generating activities undertaken in Australia,” it says.
The Australian Greens proposed an additional seven recommendations to the report, including that the Tax Office make public details of the 10 companies that transfer most wealth offshore.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the corporate tax dodgers are ripping off Australians, and ordinary taxpayers should know how.
CPA Australia said some of the important issues in the report had been overshadowed by the “name and shame” idea, calling for balance in the debate.
“Yes, tax arrangements that are blatant, artificial and contrived need to be struck down,” chief executive Alex Malley said.
“The ATO is properly empowered and resourced to do that.”
The committee is expected to present the final report, which the committee says will focus on transfer pricing and profit shifting, on November 30.