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ATO reveals surprise amount of tax big companies paid

Australian currency and the ATO logo.
The ATO has cracked down on tax avoidance. (Source: Getty/ATO)

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has revealed the amount of tax paid by large corporations in 2020/21 - and it’s the highest since reporting started.

ATO deputy commissioner Rebecca Saint said, despite the pandemic, Australia’s large corporate taxpayers generally performed well.

“This year’s report represents 2,468 corporate entities, who paid a combined $68.6 billion in income tax, $11.4 billion - or 19.8 per cent - more than the previous year and the highest since reporting began,” Saint said.

In fact, Australia has some of the highest levels of tax compliance of large businesses in the world, with 93 per cent of tax paid voluntarily and 96 per cent after the ATO steps in.

“'These results demonstrate there are high levels of tax compliance amongst our largest corporates,” Saint said.

ATO cracks down on tax avoidance

Since 2016, the ATO raised tax liabilities of $29 billion, with the Tax Avoidance Taskforce helping to generate $17.2 billion of that amount.

The ATO’s efforts to tackle tax avoidance have been further bolstered by the Government’s budget announcement that it will extend the taskforce by a year and will also provide an additional $200 million per annum to expand the focus of the taskforce. That will bring the total investment in the taskforce to $1.1 billion over the next four years.

“The increased investment in the Tax Avoidance Taskforce is a strong show of support for our ongoing efforts in holding big business to account,” Saint said.

“The increased investment by the Government will allow the taskforce to expand its initiatives to new and emerging areas of business tax risk.

“The Tax Avoidance Taskforce is able to identify and take action against those companies that don’t pay the right amount of tax, and Australians should be confident that those seeking to avoid their obligations are being held to account.”

Who didn’t pay taxes?

Despite the positive results, some big corporations still attempted to avoid paying taxes in Australia.

The percentage of entities paying no tax was 32 per cent - but still down from a high of 36 per cent in 2015/16.

Saint said there were many genuine reasons why companies might pay no income tax.

“We pay close attention to companies not paying tax. We hold those companies that report continual year-on-year losses to an additional layer of scrutiny,” she said.

“While it’s true some large entities paid no income tax, we’re seeing through our justified trust program that there are high levels of compliance by these entities, and taking decisive action where there’s not.”

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