Thursday, December 17, 2015

ABC of tax data

Quite a bit of recent data of local interest to catch up on but was distracted today by the ATO release of corporate tax data in the interests of transparency. Predictably there have been some rather misguided commentary based on reports such as this at the ABC:  Zero Tax: Data reveals how much tax major Australian corporations pay

When I first looked at this I wondered why the Australian Tax Office had presented "tax payable as a proportion of total income" and not as a proportion of "taxable income". The answer is that they didn't but rather the ABC derived this mostly, but not always irrelevant metric from the data themselves. I had thought even the most clueless numpty was aware that Woolworths pay corporate tax on corporate profits and not sales revenue (income). The ABC reporting along with much commentary doesn't seem to have bothered with the ATO commentary and particularly the contextual information: Corporate tax transparency report for the 2013-14 income year

Ranking corporate tax to total income as the ABC has done really mostly ranks differences in profit margins and between different types of businesses. Consequently I'm not sure the data and misguided reporting has really helped much in identifying where problems may lie in the corporate tax system or contributed greatly to transparency. Beyond a few predictable corporations I cant find much in this general data which shows what some outraged people think it does.

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