ATO cautions on tax transparency report

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Over 50 Australian-based pharmaceutical and medical technology companies companies paid around $500 million in tax on taxable income of approximately $2.5 billion in 2015-16.

The information has been released as part of the ATO's 2015-16 corporate tax transparency report.

It is the third time the ATO has published the information, which this year features 1,693 Australian public and foreign-owned companies with an income of $100 million or more, and 350 Australian-owned resident private companies with an income of $200 million or more.

According to the ATO, the companies account for more than $38 billion or almost 60 per cent of total company income tax payable in 2015-16, most of which was paid voluntarily.

ResMed, CSL and Coclear reported the highest taxable income for industry. Its highest taxpayers were ResMed, Cochlear, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Roche, Novartis and GSK. CSL was amongst a number of companies that reported no tax. Most of the company's income is earned overseas where it pays tax on that income in the relevant jurisdiction.

The ATO said, while there may be a focus on the number of groups which paid either no tax or small amount of tax relative to gross income, corporate income tax is payable on profits, not gross income. It also said in any given year a significant percentage of even the largest companies make losses, not just for tax purposes, but also for accounting purposes.

The pharmaceutical and medical technology sector has faced scrutiny from the ATO not necessarily in relation to compliance but its use of transfer pricing arrangements.

Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan, has previously said the appropriateness of current tax arrangements, under which the sector's companies report taxable income of 4-8 per cent on total income, comes down to whether their role is truly limited to being a local distributor of products developed by their global entity.