Australia: Coalition Pledge to Crack Down on Tax Avoidance Achieves Almost Nothing in Three Years

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Almost three years after making the promise, the Coalition government has made no progress in establishing a register designed to crack down on multinational tax avoidance.

After the publication of the Panama Papers revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest companies and people were using a law firm to minimise their tax responsibilities, and following a similar move in the UK, the Australian government agreed to establish a public registry of beneficial ownership of shell companies.

The register would be designed to expose the shell companies and allow tax authorities to scrutinise who exactly owned each part of a business.

Kelly O’Dwyer confirmed the move in April 2016, saying it would “improve transparency” and would mean the public and authorities would know “who ultimately controls the company”, making it easier to “disrupt illicit financial flows” and “much, much harder to engage in tax avoidance”.

But since then, the register has stalled. Inquiries on the register’s status to O’Dwyer’s office were referred to the assistant treasurer Stuart Robert’s office, which then passed them to the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who sent the inquiry back to Robert’s office.

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