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September 17, 2021

Aust Taxation Office eyes Paradise Papers

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The Australian Taxation Office is scouring the 'Paradise Papers'.
The Australian Taxation Office is scouring the ‘Paradise Papers’.

The Australian Taxation Office will analyse a trove of more than 13 million leaked documents covering a complex offshore web of financial dealings involving hundreds of politicians, celebrities and companies around the globe.

An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has uncovered documents relating to the movement of billions of dollars through Bermuda by the Australian arm of the global mining giant Glencore, as well as details from INXS frontman Michael Hutchence’s disputed estate.

Glencore’s Australian division moved billions of dollars through Bermuda using cross-currency interest rate swaps to try and minimise its tax liabilities, according to the documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers.

An ATO spokeswoman said the tax office would analyse the data as part of a wider investigation into complex tax structures.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the ATO was “on the front foot” in terms of investigating tax avoidance and had 13 companies under review.

“In some cases there will be people caught up in this who have done nothing illegal, and there’s no suggestion of that I’m sure, but what it does do is shine a further light on the way structures are put in place,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Mr Morrison said the swap financing scheme used by Glencore has since been changed after being scrutinised by the ATO.

“I think what that demonstrates is the ATO being on the job,” he said.

But Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said the federal government needs to take further action to tackle tax dodging and introduce rules forcing multinationals to publish their profits, taxes and assets for every country in which they operate.

“Until real action is taken, the super-wealthy and big companies will continue to shirk paying their fair share of taxes – and ordinary people and the world’s poorest pay the price,” Dr Szoke said.

Opposition assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh urged the government to commit to a tax haven transparency package, which includes rules forcing companies to say whether they do business in tax havens and show where they pay tax.

“Until the government commits to a comprehensive tax haven transparency package – as Labor has – the public is going to rely on Paradise Papers-style leaks to expose the murky use of tax havens,” he said.

About 100 media organisations from around the world spent months trawling through the Paradise Papers, the biggest data leak since the Panama Papers in 2016.

More than 120 politicians, world leaders, including the Queen, rock stars, advisors and donors linked to US President Donald Trump, and more than 100 multinationals including Apple and Nike have had their offshore interests, tax engineering and activities exposed in the latest data leak.

Details of how celebrities and sports stars use Isle of Man tax avoidance structures are also included.

Most of the documents ranging from emails, bank statements, court documents and client records are from offshore law firm Appleby and the Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust, with others emanating from corporate registries located in 19 tax havens.

Some documents detail legal attempts by Michael Hutchence’s business manager Colin Diamond to set up company, Helipad Plain, in Mauritius in 2015 to use “sound recordings, images, films, and related material embodying the performance of Michael Hutchence” ahead of the 20th anniversary of INXS singer’s death this month.

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