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BP supports tax clarity, but there's a catch


Oil giant BP says it supports a move to force multinationals operating in Australia to publish tax information – on the proviso they can decide how it’s presented.

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The Senate last week passed a bill that would impose stronger penalties on global entities earning more than $1 billion for shifting profits overseas and avoiding Australian taxes.

But the federal government rejected the addition of two amendments – including one that would mean about 1000 companies would have to disclose their tax status.

The boss of BP in the Asia Pacific, Andy Holmes, said he was supportive of increasing transparency, as long as the law mandating it was simple.

He told a Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance on Wednesday it was important definitions of what information needs to be made public are watertight before any changes were introduced.

The company’s biggest concern was being made to put out a whole lot of information that’s just going to confuse regular punters, BP’s assistant tax director in the Asia Pacific John Condon said.

“We need to be very careful about mandating disclosures which is going to add confusion as opposed to helping the companies voluntarily disclose and explain their profiles,” Condon told the Sydney hearing.

“(The law should) allow companies to decide how to explain their numbers and their profile, because many companies will be different stages in their investment cycle.

“I think it’s very difficult to explain that to the average person.”

Holmes agreed with Greens leader Richard Di Natale that, with the right parameters, mandated transparency provisions are a “good thing” for the industry.

Caltex Australia chief financial officer Simon Hepworth said he also supported greater transparency as long as it was a level playing field.

He noted that as an Australian-listed company, Caltex was open and transparent with all their stakeholders.


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