Rebecca Hyam | ABC News
Former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan has taken a huge swipe at the mining giant BHP Billiton, accusing the company of tax evasion and lying to the former Labor Government during the height of the mining tax debate.
Mr Swan told Parliament yesterday that BHP employed the practice of transfer pricing, or profit shifting to lower-tax overseas jurisdictions, to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in profits between 2005 and 2014.
He accused the miner of selling Australian minerals to its Singapore marketing hub to avoid paying taxes on the profits, which totalled $5.7 billion.
Speaking to Radio National this morning, Wayne Swan said the company had been engaging in practices that were against the national interest.
“For a long period of time, they’ve been involved in very aggressive transfer pricing, that is profit shifting – taking profits that they’ve made in Australia, shifting them to Singapore and then paying no tax in Singapore, or very little tax, and pretending that this is all done in the name of a marketing hub,” he said.
“It is terrible behaviour from the big Australian, it’s un-Australian behaviour.”
Mr Swan said that BHP Billiton had since been forced to pay a $1.4 billion bill for back taxes to the Australian Taxation Office.
BHP Billiton responded to Mr Swan’s allegations, saying it paid its “fair share” of tax both in Australia and globally.
The company said it has paid about $65 billion in taxes and royalties over the past decade, and the amount in dispute with the ATO is less than 2 per cent of that figure.
“Our Australian adjusted effective tax rate, inclusive of corporate tax, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax and royalties in financial year 2016 was approximately 57 per cent,” a BHP Billiton spokesperson said.
“Our global rate was slightly higher at 59 per cent.”
Mr Swan told Radio National those figures were fanciful.
“That’s just laughable and I don’t know where they get that figure from and they’ll have to justify that figure in the court of public opinion,” he said.
Mr Swan also said that when the mining tax debate was dominating politics in 2010, BHP Billiton had inflated the impact of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax on its business, while it channelled its profits through foreign tax havens.
He also accused BHP Billiton of failing to publicly disclose the fact that the Australian Taxation Office had been auditing its tax arrangements at the time.