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Bernard Keane

News Corp, climate criminals again top in tax dodging stakes

The Murdoch family’s News Corporation and big fossil fuel companies Santos, Woodside, Exxon and Shell all paid little or no income tax in the 2021-22 financial year, the latest tax transparency report from the Australian Taxation Office shows.

Woodside paid $176 million in tax on nearly $2 billion in profit — a tax rate of less than 10%. But its efforts were Herculean compared to fellow climate criminal Santos: that company claimed to have earned just $74 million in profit on $4.7 billion in revenue, and paid zero tax. Another four Santos holding companies earned around $1.1 billion in revenue but paid no tax. Global fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil reckoned it only made a little over $1 million in profit off over $15 billion in revenue from its oil and gas holdings.

Shell paid no tax on a profit of $777 million. The Japanese-owned Ichthys gas project claimed no profit off $7.3 billion in revenue and paid no tax.

Energy company AGL recorded a monster surge in revenue over the previous year, from $10 billion to $15 billion, but made no profit and paid nothing. Competitor EnergyAustralia claimed its $400+ million profit of the year before vanished and it too paid nothing. Origin Energy made $316 million in profit and paid nearly 30% tax on it.

A select list of non-payers shows some of the biggest corporate names in the country:

News Corp, for example, saw an increase in declared profits from $140 million in 2020-21 to $180 million in 2021-22 but the foreign-owned political player continued its long history of paying virtually no tax in Australia: since 2015, the company’s entire operations in Australia, including its once-profitable pay-TV holdings, have paid just $8 million in tax (that was way back in 2015), off many billions of dollars in revenue. It paid no tax this financial year.

The fossil fuel companies did lift their petroleum resource rent tax (PPRT) contributions, from under $1 billion in 2020-21 to $2 billion in 2021-22, less from gas revenue than from a big rise in oil revenue from Bass Strait for Esso and Woodside. Ludicrously, Santos’s PRRT from its Western Australian offshore operations actually fell in 2021-22 from $145 million to $114 million, in contrast to Woodside, which upped its North West Shelf tax payments to $188 million.

The big mining companies were far more generous: BHP in total paid over $11 billion; Rio Tinto $9 billion (but on over $50 billion in profits across its holdings); Fortescue paid over $3 billion, Gina Rinehart’s companies nearly $2.5 billion (Glencore, on the other hand, continued its tax-dodging ways).

The CBA paid a full freight of ~30% off nearly $10 billion, as did Westpac off $7 billion, NAB off $5.4 billion and ANZ off $5.3 billion — opportunities for tax creativity are limited when you make nearly all of your money from financial services within Australia. The banks may be bastards, but they make a far bigger fiscal contribution to the country than the fossil fuel industries or foreign-owned tax dodger News Corp.

AMENDMENT: A representative of Woodside has contacted Crikey to point out that Woodside’s “Burrup” entities, which it only owns 90% of, and which are thus reported separately, also earned revenue and paid tax:

Putting aside the 90% ownership issue, this means that in total Woodside paid $559 million in income tax off approximately $3.2 billion in profit derived from $13.2 billion in revenue, or a tax rate of around 18%. This is separate from its PRRT payments.

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