Do you pay more tax than the big fossil fuel companies?
For all the environmental and climate destruction wrought by the fossil fuel industry here in Australia and globally, you'd think there must be a significant payback through taxes, right?
Massive fossil fuel companies utilise all sorts of accounting tricks to minimise the tax they are required to pay, and sometimes they don’t even pay that!
Just check out the table below, which shows the biggest fossil fuel companies and how much tax they have paid compared to their revenue. In the 2018-19 financial year, 59 of these companies paid no tax, yet racked up a total income of $101 billion in Australia.
What makes this even harder to swallow are the whopping pay cheques and bonuses these companies’ bosses take home, while destroying our environment and contributing nothing to the Australian public purse.
And most of this is perfectly legal under Australia’s taxation laws.
Displayed information has been collated from the six years of tax data made public by the Australian Tax Office. This information was last updated 10 December 2020.
Fossil fuel companies paying less than their fair share
|wdt_ID||Company name||Sector||Total Income||Percent of which paid as tax||Year|
|1||BHP GROUP LIMITED||Coal||217,895,000,000.00||8.27||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|2||CALTEX AUSTRALIA LTD||Oil & Gas||144,181,000,000.00||0.50||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|3||BP REGIONAL AUSTRALASIA HOLDINGS PTY LTD||Oil & Gas||140,922,000,000.00||1.39||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|4||ORIGIN ENERGY LIMITED||Utilities||82,900,830,966.00||0.44||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|5||GLENCORE INVESTMENT PTY LIMITED||Coal||79,274,053,276.00||1.33||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|6||AGL ENERGY LIMITED||Utilities||72,526,271,491.00||1.17||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|7||SHELL ENERGY HOLDINGS AUSTRALIA LTD||Oil & Gas||63,001,976,870.00||1.77||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|8||EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA PTY LTD||Oil & Gas||55,698,347,633.00||0.00||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|9||ENERGYAUSTRALIA HOLDINGS LIMITED||Utilities||45,268,911,208.00||0.68||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
|10||WOODSIDE PETROLEUM LTD.||Oil & Gas||42,922,827,426.00||2.82||All years 2013-14 to 2018-19|
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Company Tax Avoidance Trends
The table above shows 10 fossil fuel tax avoiders for the last financial year (see them all by scrolling to the next page or altering the year displayed). Some of the most notable are:
- ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil companies and one of the largest companies by revenue in the world. Along with Chevron, ExxonMobil is developing the Gorgon LNG project off the coast of Western Australia. ATO data does not record any tax paid by ExxonMobil in Australia for at least six years.
- Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest privately owned coal producer. All four of Australia’s big four banks have loaned funds to Peabody’s projects, including Peabody’s purchase of Macarthur Coal in October 2011 and the Wambo coal mine in NSW. ATO data does not record any tax paid by Peabody Energy in Australia for at least six years.
- Chevron: The worst of a bad bunch?
In 2017, the federal court ruled that Chevron must pay the ATO more than $300 million in outstanding taxes. Speaking about the 2017 ruling, Jason Ward from the Tax Justice Network told the ABC: “It sends a clear message to Chevron and other multinationals that these tax dodging schemes won’t be allowed any longer.”
Yet ATO data does not record Chevron paying any tax in the six years to FY2019 - both before and after the 2017 ruling.
Meanwhile Chevron Australia gave $124,685 to Australia’s major political parties in FY2019.
Chevron’s influence is having a direct impact on our climate too – half of Australia’s annual CO2 emissions increase in 2018 was linked to a failed carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at the Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia, a joint venture between Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell. This so-called ‘Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection project’ is backed by a $60 million federal government direct subsidy paid for by your tax dollars.
One of the main ways fossil fuel companies minimise or avoid their tax bills is by shifting profits offshore via parent or subsidiary companies.
As tax is paid on profit, rather than revenue, companies can structure themselves so that the bulk of profits are eventually recorded by a subsidiary or parent company that's registered in low- or no-tax nations (tax havens). To learn more about tax avoidance and take action to stamp it out, head to taxjustice.org.au
Fossil fuel companies are also able to take advantage of a range of tax breaks that encourage the production or consumption of fossil fuels.
Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT)
The Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) is the major tax system for oil and gas production in Australia. It is paid based on profits, once those profits reach above a set threshold.
With Australia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) set to become one of Australia's biggest exports in the not too distant future, analyses have shown the PRRT will fail to collect any new revenue from the sector for decades.
This equates to something of a 'free ride' for Australia's dirty LNG industry, encouraging expansion when we desperately need to shrink this highly emissions intensive industry.
A much-touted federal parliamentary inquiry into the PRRT system in 2017 sadly resulted in few changes.