The Tax Institute welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Treasury in relation to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Measures for Future Bills) Bill 2023: Multinational tax transparency – Tax changes exposure draft legislation (draft Bill) and accompanying draft explanatory memorandum (draft EM).
In the development of this submission, we have closely consulted with our National Large Business and International Technical Committee to prepare a considered response that represents the views of the broader membership of The Tax Institute.
The Tax Institute has strong concerns about this measure. The draft Bill proposes to fundamentally change the public country-by-country (CbC) reporting requirements in Australia, introducing significant departures from the approach required by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and widely accepted among member states. We consider that this will result in increased compliance burdens for impacted taxpayers, disproportionate adverse implications for the business community beyond tax, and risks broader ramifications for the Australian economy and our international relations.
Affected taxpayers, likely to be multinational enterprises (MNEs), are already subject to significant compliance costs and are facing additional pressures with significant regulatory changes on the horizon. The Tax Institute is of the view that any changes to the CbC reporting requirements should be consistent with the OECD’s approach and should not result in Australia taking a position that is inconsistent with international best practice.
We also recommend that further consideration be given to the need to protect taxpayer confidentiality.
The proposed measure places reporting entities in a position of commercial, financial or reputational risk if the published information is misused or mis-interpreted. Under the existing CbC regime, relevant information is already provided to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and shared with other tax authorities on a confidential basis. It is not readily
apparent how publishing this information will address any gap in the Australian tax system.
Further, we have significant concerns about the proposal to publish information related to operations in jurisdictions other than Australia. This measure puts Australia in a position that is out of step with the global community on this issue. This may result in MNEs retracting their operations from Australia, which would be damaging for our economy in the short and long term. It also risks straining Australia’s relationships with other countries that have chosen to operate a CbC reporting regime consistent with the OECD approach. We therefore strongly caution against publicly reporting this data.
The draft Bill would benefit from further supporting guidance on aspects such as how to report corrections and providing the information to the Commissioner. Without this guidance in a timely manner, it will be difficult for taxpayers to comply with their new obligations.
Finally, we consider that if this measure is to proceed, the start date for the measure should be delayed until 1 July 2024. This will ensure that taxpayers and tax practitioners have sufficient time to understand the implications of the changes on their circumstances. It will also allow time for the ATO to provide the guidance needed to allow taxpayers to practically comply with their new obligations.