The New Daily and Michael West count down the 10 biggest corporate tax dodgers in Australia. Return on Friday when we reveal the nation’s sixth-biggest tax avoider.
America’s biggest coal company, Peabody, reported a $1 billion jump in coal sales to $3.3 billion for its Australian subsidiary, plus a $1 billion profit in its latest accounts, but no tax payable.
This is in line with the rich and long tradition of foreign resources giants skimming on tax, that is skimming profits to their associates overseas to escape paying tax in this country.
Swiss juggernaut Glencore romped in at No.1 on the Top 40 Tax Dodgers chart last year but, thanks to some nifty jiggling, managed to excuse itself from the list completely this year, despite only showing tax of $1000 on $28 billion of income over four years.
Citic Resources at #22, Sumitomo at #30 and Yancoal Australia at #33 ensured foreign traders and producers of coal were extremely well represented in this year’s Top 40.
Whitehaven Coal narrowly missed the list, coming in at #41 with a $6 billion total income and zero tax over four years.
The Tax Office transparency data shows Peabody Australia Holdco with zero tax payable over four years, zero taxable income and $12.3 billion in total income.
It is not just the tough times for coal that assist Peabody in keeping its income tax low. It is also a tricky financial structure. Its immediate parent company is based in the Netherlands, and the ultimate parent is Peabody Energy in the US.
But a few years ago, Peabody also interposed some other entities in its structure – two Gibraltar subsidiaries that hold and control Australian assets.
One of these Gibraltar subsidiaries is referred to in Peabody’s SEC filings as “a holding company” for the Australian assets.
This disclosure is hard to find in the Australian filings, if it is there, but what you will find is $7.8 billion in related party debts, loans presumably from overseas that enabled Peabody to funnel out $112 million in the year to December 2017. As it was $44 million previously, the debt-loading is on the rise.
The $1 billion jump in coal sales in Peabody’s 2017 financial report lodged with ASIC, its latest, reflects a strong bounce in the price of coal since the ATO data.
For the year to December, revenues rose sharply from $2.3 billion to $3.3 billion. As costs were stable at $2.1 billion, gross profit shot up from $249 million to $1.14 billion.
Net profit turned from a $1 billion loss in 2016 to a $1.3 billion profit and, last year, Peabody reported an income tax benefit of $43 million (from a $19.6 million payment in the year prior), further boosting its bottom line.
Peabody did pay $284 million in royalties, according to its latest accounts, up from $174 million, so the states are capturing some revenue.
The accounts also show subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands, the Netherlands and Venezuela.
This is part four of a 10-part series on the nation’s biggest tax dodgers. Click here to see part three.
For the full details of Michael West’s investigation into Australia’s 40 biggest tax dodgers you can visit his website, here.