Voluntary tax transparency code
As part of the 2015 Budget, on 12 May 2015 the Treasurer wrote to the Board of Taxation to ask it to lead the development of a new code on greater public disclosure of tax information by businesses, particularly large multinationals.
On 14 July 2015, the Treasurer issued the terms of reference for this project to the Board.
- The Board is requested to develop a voluntary code for the increased public disclosure of tax information by businesses, particularly large multinationals, by May 2016.
- The actions of a few businesses, particularly large multinationals engaging in aggressive tax avoidance, have tarnished the reputations of many businesses that are doing the right thing.
- Some large businesses have responded by releasing detailed information about their tax affairs. The Government would like more large businesses to publicly disclose their tax affairs to highlight those that are paying their fair share and to encourage all businesses not to engage in aggressive tax avoidance.
- For some Australian-owned private companies, mandatory or voluntary public disclosure may not be appropriate given the commercial sensitivity, privacy and personal security concerns of the ultimate owners.
- Australia already has laws that mandate public disclosure by large companies for their turnover, taxable income and tax paid. A voluntary code for greater disclosure will help build confidence in the majority of Australian businesses that do the right thing.
- A voluntary code will provide a framework for large businesses to take the lead, to become more transparent and help educate the public about their compliance with Australia’s tax laws.
- In designing the voluntary code, the Board should have regard to:
7.1. Australian experiences with voluntary disclosure regimes;
7.2. International experiences with voluntary disclosure of tax information;
7.3. The need to strike an appropriate balance between promoting community confidence in the tax regime through the release of appropriate information and the commercial sensitivity of some taxpayer information;
7.4. Compliance costs for taxpayers.
- The Board should work with businesses, Treasury and the ATO to develop within 12 months a voluntary code on increased public disclosure of tax information by large businesses. The Government will monitor progress and take further action if required.
- In undertaking these reviews, the Board should consult with relevant stakeholder groups as appropriate.
- It is envisaged that a small team within Treasury will work with the Board as required.
Mr Michael Andrew, chair of the Board of Taxation, lead the Board’s work on development of the transparency code. Mr Andrew was assisted by a number of other Board members, including Mrs Ann-Maree Wolff, Mr John Emerson and Mr Neville Mitchell. In addition, the Board formed a working group made up of representatives of the Australian Taxation Office, Treasury, academia, businesses and professional firms.
Initial consultation was held in August and September 2015 to allow interested parties to contribute to the early development of the tax transparency code.
The Board released a Consultation Paper [PDF 595KB |RTF 584KB] on the tax transparency code on 11 December 2015. The Board developed this Consultation Paper to invite submissions and facilitate stakeholder consultation on the issues raised in accordance with the terms of reference. The Board requested that submissions be made by 29 January 2016.
Board’s Report and Government Response
The Board completed its development of a tax transparency code and provided its report to Government on 16 February 2016.
On 3 May 2016, the Government announced the release of the Board’s final report on a tax transparency code. The Government endorsed the Tax Transparency Code as part of the 2016-17 Budget announcements.
For further information about the Board’s work on the tax transparency code, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or on (02) 6263 4366.
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