Some 600 of the biggest firms operating in Australia
Sydney - AFP
Some 600 of the biggest firms operating in Australia, including Qantas and Glencore, paid no income tax in the 2013-14 financial year, data showed Thursday as the government vowed to keep targeting loopholes.
There has been a global push, including in Australia, for large local and multinational companies to stop using sophisticated structures to avoid or lower their tax payments, which has seen governments lose billions in revenue.
The tax details of around 1,500 large corporations were released by the Australian Taxation Office as a "step forward in improving corporate tax transparency", its Commissioner Chris Jordan said in a statement.
While Jordan said companies that did not incur a tax bill were not necessarily avoiding payments, he warned multinational firms -- some of which fronted a parliamentary inquiry this year on tax minimisation -- that their "aggressive arrangements" would be scrutinised.
"Some of these foreign-owned companies are overly aggressive in the way they structure their operations," he said.
"We will continue to challenge the more aggressive arrangements to show that we are resolute about ensuring companies are not unreasonably playing on the edge. If they do, they can expect to be challenged."
Britain in March introduced a so-called "Google tax" on firms that divert profits overseas, while Australia recently passed a law to lift transparency requirements that would also see disclosures required for private companies with turnover of Aus$200 million (US$144 million).
The data showed that Apple raked in Aus$6.2 billion in total income in Australia for the 2013-14 year, but only had a taxable income of Aus$247.4 million and a tax bill of Aus$74.1 million.
Swiss commodity giant Glencore booked combined revenue of some Aus$17.4 billion for the same period for three reporting entities, but paid no tax for any of them.
Likewise, Australian carrier Qantas and oil and gas company ExxonMobil Australia were among other household names that made billions in total income but paid no tax for 2013-14.
Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer said Australia had worked with the G20 and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to close the tax loopholes of multinationals, and had strengthened the powers of the ATO.
"It is critically important that multinational... companies are paying their fair share of tax and that's why the government has been very quick to lead this debate through the G20," she told reporters Thursday.
Opposition Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who chaired the tax inquiry, said the data supported the need for "tougher laws to crack down on this type of behaviour".