6 April 2017
Transcript - #2017010, 2017

Interview with Grant Goldman, 2SM

SUBJECTS: Multinational tax avoidance

GRANT GOLDMAN:

Joining us on the line the financial services minister, Kelly O’Dwyer. Good morning Kelly.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good morning Grant.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

What do you make of these huge companies, and they are huge, particularly Google, not paying the proper amount of tax?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well the Australian Government has made it very clear that we are going to give the Australian Taxation Office the powers and the penalties they need to ensure that we get every dollar owed to the Australian people. We passed laws almost two years ago now that has led to this action being taken, where we have at least seven major multinational companies with tax bills of up to $3 billion coming to a head before 30 June of this year.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

Can I go the other side of the coin, the humble taxpayer. I’m a small business basically and we have to do the BAS every three or four months as you know. My wife and I are in tears doing the BAS, working for the taxation department, for which we get no money by the way, and it’s interesting, if that’s late they want to know about it and they want to start finding you. So why is it that they go after the smaller business but they won’t touch the big businesses like Google, Apple and Microsoft, and many others too for that matter?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well in fact we’re saying exactly that – that everyone, no matter who you are, whether you are big or small, if you owe money to the Australian people, money that pays for roads, defence, all the things that people expect and demand of government, then the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Government will go after that money to make sure it is properly paid. And we make no apology for that. And we have had a very, very strong focus on multinational companies, making sure they pay the right amount of tax. We have had to change the law to make sure that this happens. We have changed the law through the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law, which unfortunately wasn’t supported by Labor at the time, we have recently put through the Diverted Profits Tax. All of these elements, along with establishing the Tax Avoidance Taskforce, have meant that our Australian Taxation Office now has the penalties and the powers to go after big business doing the wrong thing.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

Do you know the one thing that big businesses say to governments when they’re pressed for tax and pressed for extra help and extra money to the government, they say well you better be careful because we employ a lot of people. That shouldn’t be an excuse any longer?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well paying tax is not an optional extra. You don’t get a self-help approach to tax.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

That would be a good idea if we did because no one would pay tax!

KELLY O’DWYER:

It’s got to be fair for everybody and I believe, as the minister for revenue, that it’s critically important that people have confidence in our taxation system and that we ensure it applies to everybody. It’s just simply not fair on those people, the vast majority of Australians who are doing the right thing, it’s not fair on them if some people are ripping off the Australian people. And we won’t stand for it.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

As financial services minister, and by the way I think you’re doing a fair job, on behalf of the people who have supplied the majority of tax in this country and that’s small business, I’ll tell you some area that I often get calls from small businesses about – these goods and services provided by the bigger companies to that small business and they never get paid. It takes 120 days sometimes and they look for the 120 day accounts. That’s something that needs to be looked at and addressed.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Paying on time and particularly paying small businesses and medium sized businesses on time, particularly where there are big businesses involved, is critically important because cash flow for any small business is really king and we have established the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, who can go after these instances where people are not being paid on time. The government has put in place rules to establish what should be normal amounts of time that people are paid within those parameters. So I agree with you, it’s very important that people do pay it on time and if they’re not, I would encourage them to go to the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

There you go. I know the address of Google. Do you want to know where they are? Because they’re just nearby here to the radio station at Pyrmont.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we’ve actually had around about 1,000 people through the Australian Taxation Office forensically analysing these very, very big companies and I can tell you, we know all of their addresses.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

It’s interesting and I made mention of it too, other countries have decided to crack down on Google, Microsoft and the other big companies like Apple, because they figure that whilst they’re operating in this country they’re not part of this country. And that’s been an argument for quite some time, but other countries have been able to extract tax from them. Is that the motivating factor – that we’ll get our bit as well?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We just don’t think it’s acceptable for companies who are making billions of dollars of profits in Australia pushing those profits offshore and not paying the tax owed to the Australian people. It’s not right, which is why we’ve changed the laws to make sure that we get the money that’s owed. And that is why these new assessments are being raised against these very big well-known companies. It’s being done because the law has been changed and we’ve given the Australian Taxation Office additional powers to go after them and additional resources in order to do that with their international team.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

There you go. Lovely to talk to you, thank you for your time this morning.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great pleasure Grant.

GRANT GOLDMAN:

Kelly O’Dwyer the financial services minister. Look out Mr Google, they’re coming to get you.