The ATO reveals which tech giants had a zero tax bill

IBM Watson. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

The Australian Taxation Office has published the tax bills for almost 2000 large corporations for the 2014-15 financial year, giving a glimpse into how much tech giants contribute to the public purse.

The list was published for Australian-owned public, private foreign and public foreign companies with a total income of $100 million or more, plus Australian private businesses with an income of $200 million or more.

The 1904 entities in the list account for $42 billion or about 63% of total company tax payable for 2014-15, according to the ATO.

Some of the notable tech brands with zero tax bills include IBM ANZ, HP South Pacific, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, NEC, Amaysim, Foxtel (both the cable television and management entities) and Acer.

Commissioner of taxation Chris Jordan was careful to point out that a variety of reasons can lead to a zero tax bill, and it does not necessarily mean tax avoidance.

“Even companies with very high total income sometimes make losses and you will no doubt recognise some large Australian organisations on the list that fall into this category, Qantas for example,” he said.

HP, NEC, Acer and Vodafone all fall under this category, ending up with zero taxable income.

“These companies may have incurred an accounting and tax loss in the current year or in prior years, and are now using those to reduce current taxable income. Many companies are now publishing information describing any losses or other economic factors that contribute to their taxable position,” said the commissioner.

The big three multinational technology companies that have come under the spotlight in recent years on taxation issues — Apple, Microsoft and Google — are all listed. Uber and AirBnB, two “sharing economy” brands targetted by a senate committee on taxation, did not appear in the report.

Apple had $146 million in tax payable out of a taxable income of $488 million, which is close to the Australian corporate tax rate of 30%. That result came off a total income of more than $8.3 billion.

Meanwhile, Google had a tax bill that was just 11% of its taxable income of $106 million. The $12.2 million tax payable came off a year that saw it rack up $428.7 million of total income. The tech giant has undergone restructuring in the past year to onshore more revenue.

Microsoft Australia came close to the 30% tax rate, with a tax bill of more than $33.3 million off a taxable total income of $111 million. Its total income for the year was reported as $679.4 million.

Telstra and Optus owner Singtel both came close to the 30% rate on their tax bills. Telstra faced a whopping $1.7 billion tax bill off its taxable income of almost $6 billion and total income of $26.6 billion.

The ATO’s annual report is a legislated requirement initiated by the previous Labor government. Former coalition treasurer Joe Hockey continued the campaign against multinational tax avoidance, bringing in a “Google tax” and targetting specific companies for attention.

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