Missing: $13.4bn in tax

Turnbull wants to give big business $65 billion in tax cuts
Emma Alberici

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, one of the most prominent supporters of the Turnbull Government's proposed big business tax cut, presides over a company that hasn't paid corporate tax for close to 10 years. The period roughly coincides with Mr Joyce's tenure at the helm of Australia's flag carrier.

Despite generating a pre-tax profit of last financial year of more than $1 billion, the flying kangaroo has paid no corporate tax since 2009, thanks to Australia's generous depreciation provisions and the ability to offset massive historical losses made by the company against past and future profits.

Analysis by the ABC reveals Qantas is not alone — about 380, or one in five, of Australia's largest companies have paid no tax for at least the past three years.

In the cutthroat aviation industry, not one of Australia's major airlines has paid corporate tax since at least 2013, including Virgin and its subsidiary Tigerair.

Despite selling billions of dollars worth of tickets in Australia, historical losses and the entirely legitimate use of Australia's tax laws allow them to offset those losses against future profits indefinitely.

Both Qantas and Virgin companies emphasised to the ABC that, notwithstanding their zero corporate tax liabilities, they had continued to collect and pay departure taxes, fuel and alcohol excises, payroll tax, GST and FBT.

The airlines are typical of highly competitive industries where losses are frequent and capital investment is hugely expensive.

While the debate over corporate tax cuts is likely to dominate the political debate over the next year, Australia is actually unusually dependent on personal income tax and the burden of corporate tax rests disproportionately on a small number of large Australian-based companies.

In 2015/16, among the top 50 companies, 17 paid no corporate tax, leaving just 33 to shoulder the burden. Between them, they provided just under $20 billion. This includes the big four banks and our two big miners and retailers, Woolworths and Wesfarmers.

Read the rest of this story at ABC News