While the Australian Tax Office does very little to make Australia’s biggest company tax dodgers pay their fair share the ATO is in the process of spending $millions trying to jail ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle. When looked at closely it’s not hard to work out why the rich get richer and the poor get the picture.
Richard Boyle is looking down the barrel at a reported 161 years in jail for upsetting ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan, who has personally signed the police complaint, while at the same journalist Michael West has been exposing Australia’s top 40 corporate tax cheats who have made $billions but paid no tax and the ATO says and does nothing.
Richard Boyle says the ATO started using unfair debt collecting tactics and Boyle raised the issue internally, but nothing was done. The ABC reported:
Mr Boyle, 43, is charged with 66 offences including using a listening device to monitor a private conversation, recording another person’s tax file number and disclosing protected information.
The information and summons sheet lists tax commissioner Chris Jordan as the informant, with his signature on it.
Now the question is whether Mr Boyle may be protected by public interest disclosure laws passed in 2013, specifically relevant to public servant whistleblowers.
In February 2018, the ATO tried to settle with Mr Boyle over an alleged breach of the Public Service Code of Conduct, offering him a payout and a statement of service, with no admission of liability.
The catch would also be that he would be unable to speak to media about what he knew.
But Mr Boyle decided the public had a right to know what was going on at the ATO. He would not stay quiet. He rejected the ATO’s offer.
During the ABC-Fairfax investigation Mr Boyle claimed that, in 2017, some Adelaide office staff were instructed to seize funds from the bank accounts of taxpayers assessed to owe the ATO money, regardless of their personal circumstances.
The agency has the legal authority to issue what is known as a garnishee notice in order to directly deduct debts from bank accounts or earnings. (Click here to read more)
Mr Boyle went on to record an interview for the ABC’s Four Corners episode called “Mongrel bunch of bastards” which went to air in April last year. Officers from the ATO and Australian Federal Police raided Mr Boyle’s house when they became aware he had gone to the media. (Click here to read more)
Michael West’s tax dodging series
Michael West publishes the website michaelwest.com.au and has just finished his series on Australia’s top 40 corporate tax dodgers who between them have had revenue of hundreds of $billions and paid no tax. It includes the top three tax dodgers:
No 1: ExxonMobil Australia Pty Ltd – 4 year total income – $33,170,960,652 – Tax $0
No 2: EnergyAustralia – 4 year total income – $30,229,662,288 – Tax $0
No 3: Virgin Australia – 4 year total income – $17,907,315,984 – Tax $0
The question that sticks out a mile is: Why is the ATO commissioner about to spend $millions trying to jail an ATO whistleblower who has exposed the failings of the ATO when it could be spent forcing Australia’s top 40 tax dodgers to pay their fair share which could then be spent of hospitals, schools and roads etc?
Also, why is the ATO acting like a private monopoly with poor management and no government oversight and why are the ATO’s priorities so ethically and morally wrong?
Large companies dodging tax is not new and the ATO were handed a truck load of evidence in 2016 when the ABC’s Four Corners program screened a show on the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. I wrote in April 2016:
The Panama Papers: Secrets of the Super Rich – Four Corners show – 4 April 2016
“The story of how some of Australia’s richest companies got into bed with one of the world’s shadiest law firms, which operates through offshore tax havens under a veil of secrecy.”
“In the early hours of this morning companies and individuals across the globe found their most sensitive financial dealings exposed in a massive leak of documents from a firm in Panama City called Mossack Fonseca. Amongst those outed for having assets secretly stashed in tax havens are present and former world leaders, dictators and their cronies, arms dealers and drug traffickers.”
“The Australian connections include BHP Billiton, Wilson Security, a major electricity company – and 800 individuals, now targets of the Australian Tax Office.”
“The database of 11.5 million documents was handed over to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung last year. Since then, Four Corners has worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, analysing the files.”
“The story from this massive leak will fuel the already heated debate in Australia about tax avoidance.” (Click here to read more)
A key part relevant to this story regarding Mossack Fonseca is later in the Four Corners program where it is revealed that Cheung Kong Infrastructure, which is owned by Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing, “has a big slice of Australia’s electricity market, especially in South Australia” and he doesn’t pay his tax to the tune of about $720 million.
“the Australian Tax Office took two CKI-related companies to court in 2013. The Tax Office argued each company owed almost $400 million in back taxes and penalties on their Australian electricity business.” The case was settled out of court in 2015 for about $80 million.
They paid $80 million of a $800 million tax debt. So where did the other $720 million go?
Senator Xenophon when interviewed for the show said: “this is a case of curiouser and curiouser. Ah, here is a company which has been subject to a ruling of almost $800 million in back taxes; in underpayment of taxes. Then it was quietly settled a year or two later for a fraction of that: something like 10 per cent of the total amount being sought.”
“Ah, what I think this highlights is: the need for greater transparency in these settlements.”
$720 million is a lot of money to bribe someone at the tax office if you wanted to. How this has gone unchallenged and unchecked is amazing. (Click here to read more)
The ATO would be better off saving the $millions they are spending trying to jail Richard Boyle and spend it on investigating who and why the ATO staff gave Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing a $720 million discount on his $800 million tax bill.
Richard Boyle – Fightback
Richard Boyle made the decision he did to fight to expose the truth instead of settling with the ATO and the ATO have made the decision to try to crush Mr Boyle because he didn’t settle and went to the media. This might seem like a standard David and Goliath battle, but the Goliath could end up being Richard Boyle and the ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan is too stupid to realise it.
The reason being is that almost all adult social media users are tax payers to some degree or another and most will back Boyle over the ATO and I have no doubt this is a case where social media will flex its muscle probably like never before to support Richard Boyle. An example that I believe supports this viewpoint is the Change.org petition that was set up 2 weeks ago to pressure the government to intervene to stop the persecution of Mr Boyle which at the time or writing has 68,786 signatures and rising fast. (Click here to sign the petition and support Richard Boyle).
If Richard Boyle was to go to jail, I have no doubt it will cost the ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan his job and it probably will anyhow no matter what happens as Chris Jordan has gone one step too far in his bullying of Mr Boyle. And the bullying will be on public display and an embarrassment for the government for as long as the court case drags on.
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Categories: Australian Tax Office - ATO