ATO sharing your tax debts with credit agencies

The tax office is taking stronger measures to recoup tax debts owed by small businesses. Now, they are willing to share your tax debt information with credit reporting agencies.

This means that unless you or your tax accountant approaches the ATO to manage your tax debts in time, your future ability to borrow money might be impacted as banks and other lenders will have access to this information.

This new measure commenced from July 1 2017. It will initially only apply if you have an ABN, and have tax debts of more than $10,000 that are at least 90 days overdue.

Why this new policy?

The ATO is hoping that this pushes small businesses and their tax accountants to be more earnest in disclosing their income and paying up tax debts. Why is this a concern? Collectable tax debt totals near $20 million, with $1.7 written off as uneconomical to pursue. Of this $20 million, small businesses hold around 65% of this debt. Only 72% of small businesses pay their tax on time. Hence tax accountants who manage the declarations of small businesses need to be ever more aware of ATO scrutiny.

How will this impact me?

Previously, your unpaid liabilities with the ATO stayed largely between you, your tax accountants, and the ATO. Now that credit agencies can also find out about your debts, you run the risk of being on the receiving end of a bad credit report. This can impact your ability to borrow money or even access your current funds.

The best thing you can do is to make sure your declarations and reporting are up to scratch. Your tax accountant needs to be aware of the best way to manage your obligations with the ATO. Calibre’s tax accountants exhaustively explore every option and ensure that you know how best to remain complaint.

Chevron’s Landmark Court Ruling should provoke a review of Transfer Pricing Methods

Years of litigation. Roughly $340 million in taxes, penalties and interest demanded by the ATO. A unanimous judgement by the full bench of the Federal Court that upheld the ATOs decision. The consequences of this transfer pricing dispute go well beyond Chevron.

What was the transfer pricing decision?

The ATO effectively claimed that the transfer pricing methods included in loans between Chevron Australia and its US subsidiary were not ‘arms- length’. The tax office claimed that the company inflated interest deductions and greatly diminished their tax bill in Australia through this transfer pricing arrangement. For their part, Chevron disputed this decision, arguing that this kind of transfer pricing structure was wholly a legitimate form of financing for multinationals.

  • Chevron Australia created a US subsidiary during the merger of Chevron and Texaco.
  • Chevron Australia arranged to borrow from Chevron US to fund an acquisition of Texaco Australia.
  • Chevron US borrowed at 1.2% interest in the US to raise funds to lend this money to Chevron Australia.
  • Chevron US then charged 9% interest on the loan to Chevron Australia. The difference between the 1.2% they were charged when they borrowed and the 9% they charged from their parent meant they ended up with significant profits.
  • The profits of these loans were not taxed in Australia or the US.
  • The ATO claimed that assessable income was turned into non-assessable income by deduction of outbound interest and receipt of inbound non-assessable dividends.

Transfer pricing provisions aim to stop the erosion of domestic tax revenue through the cross-border acquisitions between related parties.

Chevron protested the ATO claim. The company claimed that they chose the most efficient transfer pricing structure for the Chevron Group. But the ATO argued that if Chevron’s subsidiary was an independent entity, the borrowing cost would have been significantly lower than 9% hence the transfer pricing on the loan was by no means arms-length.

How does this transfer pricing decision impact me?

The court’s decision means subsidiaries cannot be treated as independent entities when arranging transfer pricing structures. The court did not accept that an independent entity would have lent money unsecured to Chevron Australia at 9% for the purposes for which that money was used. In essence, after this decision, if you have significant overseas borrowings from related parties, you should be aware that ATO has the power to reconstruct funding between these parties and measure your transfer pricing methods.

Do you have foreign entities or subsidiaries? This decision goes well beyond multinationals in the oil and gas industry. It means you need to be wiser about how you cost transfer pricing between yourself and your related parties overseas. Now is a good time to revaluate your transfer pricing strategy with your business advisors.

Important Disclaimer: Readers should not act solely on the basis of the material on this page. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice. Legislation and proposals of legislation are also subject to constant change. We therefore recommend that formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. This news article is issued as a guide to the readers. Calibre Business Advisory Pty Ltd and its associated entities disclaims any losses that may be incurred as a result of the reader undertaking any action based on this article.

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