Canada transparency laws force ASX companies to disclose tax bills
Two Australian mining companies will be forced to disclose how much tax they pay in every country around the world by new transparency laws introduced in Canada.
Paladin Energy and OceanaGold, both dual-listed in Australia and Canada, will have to comply with new Canadian laws requiring all oil, gas and mining companies to report payments they make to governments overseas, including taxes, royalties, bonuses, regulatory charges and licence fees.
The Australian government is being pushed to introduce similar rules.
The legislation aims to tackle corruption and tax avoidance in poor countries, as well as payments to indigenous groups. It follows mounting global pressure by transparency organisations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to introduce a country-by-country reporting regime.
The new rules are expected to come into force by June 2015 after passing through the Canadian parliament on December 16.
Claire Spoors, a spokeswoman for advocacy group Publish What You Pay, said the Abbott government should consider introducing similar laws in line with Canada’s.
“Australia, as a mining giant, could make a real difference in helping resource-rich but poor countries prosper by ensuring there is greater transparency,” she said.
“Well-managed and properly accounted-for resource revenues can be invested in health, education and putting countries on sustainable development pathways.”
A spokesperson for OceanaGold was unavailable to comment.
The OECD is pushing ahead with a plan to introduce a country-by-country reporting regime – where detailed tax information will be collected from multinationals but be kept private by tax authorities.
The Canadian laws, as well as new rules to be introduced in the European Union, go a step further, and require extractive companies and banks to publicly report certain information from next year.
Some large Australian miners, including Rio Tinto, already publish a large amount of tax information, with Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh saying he welcomed country-by-country reporting as a way of tackling corruption.
But the Abbott government has signalled it could water down transparency laws introduced under Labor. The tax disclosure laws would mean that from July, companies with $100 million or more in turnover would have their tax information disclosed on the Australian Taxation Office website.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Fairfax Media the government would review the laws following complaints by private business owners that they could be kidnapped and held for ransom when people realised how wealthy they were from their published tax information.
Senator Cormann said the laws showed a “ham-fisted, ill-thought-out approach trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer”.
But advocates say greater transparency will boost confidence in the broader community that large companies are paying their fair share of tax.
Australia has endorsed the OECD’s reporting regime, which is not due to be introduced until 2018.
It has also signed up to the OECD’s common reporting standard for governments sharing tax information, after criticism that it delayed the process by consulting big business.
OceanaGold has operations in New Zealand, the Philippines and Australia. Paladin Energy has projects in Namibia, Malawi, Niger, Canada and Australia.