Company Taxpayers will this year face the first public disclosure of taxpayer data following changes to tax secrecy laws, which will see the ATO publish 2013-14 data online.
The first disclosure is expected to take place in late November or early December 2015, with the data uploaded to the data.gov.au website for public access.
Currently, affected taxpayers are all ‘corporate tax entities’ (companies and entities taxed as companies), with total income exceeding $100 million. However, there is a proposal for Australian private resident companies and private tax consolidated groups to be excluded from the new provisions.
Traditionally, a fundamental feature of tax law has been the unconditional secrecy surrounding taxpayer data, said RSM Bird Cameron.
In Australia, however, this position changed when Australia’s tax secrecy laws were amended in June 2013, subsequently requiring the ATO to publicly report certain large company tax data, the firm stated.
Simon Aitken, director at RSM Bird Cameron, said he expects there to be close scrutiny of the data and warned companies to be prepared for a public backlash.
“One of the key justifications for introducing this disclosure was to provide more information to public debate about tax policy, particularly in relation to the corporate tax system”, he said.
“Taxpayers with low effective tax rates may want to consider pre-emptive statements and strategies in anticipation of questions."
Mr Aitken said that for companies which anticipate a low effective tax rate, “it will be critical to have to hand information that balances the minimalist ATO reporting and explains the underlying commercial reasons for the lower tax rate, such as foreign income, accelerated depreciation rates, tax losses, and research and development tax incentives”.
“Large companies who face public disclosure of their tax data should understand the likely figures that will be released, and consider the message those figures will deliver. For those companies with a low effective tax rate, be prepared with information that explains the true position,” Mr Aitken said.