“Morale is down and 3000 of our most senior ATO staff have recently taken redundancy package,” said one former officer. “There was also an absurd clear out of senior transfer pricing staff about two years ago, so there is very little likelihood of the ATO ‘manning-up’ on multinationals any time soon. Corporate lobbyists smuggly tell us is such a minimal issue amongst the top 200 companies.
“The big firms can afford to attract the best brains while the ATO has to get by on a few well-meaning but outgunned do-gooders,”
The sources grumbles that the focus in the ATO is now to to “facilitate business”.
“The general impression among senior ATO officers is that we are supposed to give the big firms what they want and to usher the revenue out the door. The News decision is symptomatic of that and a lot of staff were pissed we caved on that case.”
The source was referring to the decision by the ATO not to appeal a case against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. News, an infamous tax minimiser, won an $880 million rebate last year for a transaction which harked back to 1989.
If it had the political will, the government could enact laws right away to remove the secrecy around tax.
“Lack of transparency of settled disputes with multinationals can, in my opinion, promote questionable back-room tax deals, if not corruption … where litigation is discouraged, settlement encouraged, a ‘light touch’ approach promulgated and where the appointment of senior executive staff (SES) to positions in a handful of large, multinational-specialist, tax advisory firms, and vice versa, has increasingly become a revolving door,” the source said.
This secrecy plays directly into the hands of the corporations dodging tax, not to mention their advisers at the big four accounting firms and their tax lawyers.
The government could move to make the tax laws and regulation more transparent tomorrow and the corporate regulator could insist on companies publishing general purpose financial statements. The tools are there to bring in billions in tax, all that is needed is some fair dinkum government.