The companies that made the most money – and paid the most tax

Australia’s mining companies and banks were the largest corporate taxpayers, with the top ten handing more than $33 billion over to the government in the 2021 financial year.

But as the first full financial year of the pandemic bit, just over 25 per cent of the big businesses reported no taxable income and more than 30 per cent paid no income tax.

Mining companies including Rio Tinto paid billions in corporate income tax in 2020-2021.Credit:Louie Douvis

The Australian Tax Office released its corporate tax transparency report for 2020-2021 on Thursday, listing all public and foreign-owned companies that reported incomes of $100 million or more, and all private Australian companies that earned $200 million or more and what income tax those companies paid.

Australia’s corporate tax rate is 30 per cent. The large mining companies, banks and supermarkets reported paying around that percentage on their taxable income, as did Telstra and the large tech companies.

According to the tax office data, BHP Group ($7.3 billion), Rio Tinto ($6.2 billion) and Fortescue Metals ($5.8 billion) paid the most corporate income tax in 2020-21.

BHP Iron Ore ($2.5 billion), Roy Hill Holdings ($1.9 billion) and Hancock Prospecting ($1.1 billion) rounded out the top-10 mining taxpayer as the price of iron ore surged through that financial year, bringing in huge earnings for the mining sector.

But not all commodity and energy companies paid income tax. Glencore Investment reported no taxable income from $14.5 billion in revenue.

Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and NAB were the largest banking taxpayers, paying $3.1 billion, $1.6 billion and $1.3 billion respectively.

At the very top of the total income list is banking and insurance business AMP, bringing in $78.2 billion. The company reported a taxable income of just under $1.9 billion, and paid 12.7 per cent of that ($235.5 million) in tax – making it the 33rd largest income tax payer.

WX Trading – a cryptocurrency business – was also high on the revenue list but low on tax payments. It brought in $33 billion in revenue, coming in at number six, but paid just under $1.8 million in tax – ranking it 1404th by tax payment.

As the pandemic shut down the international travel market and severely dampened domestic travel, Qantas reported $5.9 billion in gross earnings in 2020-2021 and no taxable income. The year before, Qantas reported $13.9 billion in gross earnings but also no taxable income, and paid no income tax either year.

Virgin Australia made slightly more than Qantas, at $6 billion, and also reported no taxable income. However, it was a step up for the company, which reported gross earnings of $5.1 billion the previous financial year.

Petrol companies reported no taxable income for 2020-2021 as well. Ampol reported just over $20 billion in revenue, and BP Regional had revenue of $17.4 billion. Viva Energy Group, which owns Shell-branded petrol stations, reported $12.8 billion in revenue.

The previous financial year, Ampol paid $104 million in tax on $400 million in taxable income from $28 billion in gross earnings, while BP regional paid $352 million in tax on a taxable income of $1.2 billion and $23.2 billion in total revenue. Viva Energy had $16.6 billion in total earnings, and paid $54.5 million on its $192.8 million taxable income.

The run on toilet paper and essentials including flour eased into the 2020-2021 financial year, with the major supermarkets reporting slightly softer earnings than in 2019-2020.

Woolworths fell from the top revenue spot to third place, bringing in $49.8 billion and paying tax of $636.5 million on taxable income of $2.5 billion.

Coles, which made $43.4 billion, reported a taxable income of $1.5 billion and paid 30 per cent of that ($455.6 million) in income tax. It was slightly below its 2019-2020 revenue of $45.6 billion.

But discount supermarket chain Aldi increased its revenue, from $9.6 billion to $10.7 billion in 2020-2021, and paid $270 million in tax on its taxable income of $900 million.

Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Dr Andrew Leigh said it was important that both local and foreign-owned companies paid their fair share of tax, and the government was committed to ensuring that happened.

“The last thing we want is an economy in which firms are competing based on who has got the best tax loophole; that doesn’t provide a stronger economy,” he said.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is vital to ensure that we’ve got optimal information out there on who’s paying tax, and who isn’t.”

Big tech companies also paid tax in Australia. Apple was one of the top 30 companies by gross earnings, bringing in $11.2 billion in 2020-2021, and paid 30 per cent of its taxable income of $579.3 million in income tax ($173.6 million).

Google made $1.4 billion, and paid $78 million in tax on its $300 million taxable income. Facebook reported $717 million in Australian earnings, of which $68 million was taxable. The company paid $20.4 million in tax.

Nine Entertainment Co, the owner of this masthead, had gross earnings of $2.15 billion and $364 million in taxable income, paying 30 per cent in tax.

Seven West Media, the parent company of Channel Seven and the West Australian newspaper, had gross earnings of $1.8 billion and $152 million in taxable income. It paid $42 million, or 28 per cent in tax.

News Australia Holdings, which publishes The Australian newspaper, the capital city tabloids and owns property network REA Group, reported $1.6 billion in earnings and $141 million in taxable income, but paid no income tax.

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