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Australia announces expert group to tackle multinational tax minimisation strategies

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David Bradbury, Australia’s assistant treasurer, yesterday announced the members that will make up the country’s new specialist reference group, which is tasked with examining the tax minimisation strategies used by multinationals and “its risks to the sustainability of Australia’s corporate tax base”.

“The way companies do business is changing and we need to ensure that international tax systems keep pace,” said Bradbury.

The assistant treasurer has asked the Treasury to work on a paper that will assess the risks to the sustainability of Australia’s corporate tax base from multinational companies’ tax minimisation techniques, as well as identifying potential responses.

“This specialist reference group will feed into that process, with Treasury drawing on members’ knowledge and expertise,” said Bradbury.

The formation of a specialist group comes in the wake of a raft of revelations about the amounts of corporation tax paid by multinational companies in certain jurisdictions. For example, Google, Amazon and Starbucks have all come under scrutiny in the UK in recent weeks.

Bradbury acknowledges that countries across the globe must take action to keep up with increasingly more innovative tax planning techniques.

“Governments around the world need to re-examine many of the key rules of international taxation, which are not keeping up with the changing business models and tax planning arrangements of many multinational companies,” he said.

Bradbury also said a key role of the group will be to “build community understanding of the nature of the challenges we face”. It will hold its first meeting in February 2013.

Group members:

Rob Heferen (chairman), executive director of the Treasury’s revenue group; Michael Bersten, partner at PwC; Michael D’Ascenzo, commissioner of taxation 2006-2012; Frank Drenth, executive director of the Corporate Tax Association of Australia; Serena Lillywhite, mining advocacy coordinator at OxFam Australia; Ross Lyons, general manager, tax, Asia Pacific for Rio Tinto; Tim Lyons, assistant secretary, ACTU; Peter Madden, partner at Deloitte; Jason Sharman, director at Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy; Greg Smith, adjunct professor at the Australian Catholic University and senior fellow of the Melbourne Law Masters; Tony Stolarek, partner at Ernst & Young; Niv Tadmore, partner at Clayton Utz; Brian Wilson, chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board; and Mark Zirnsak, director of the Justice and International Mission Unit, Uniting Church.

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