Mining and Heavy Industries

Court battle looms in Rio tax debate

Rio Tinto train - Photo Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has published the details of the $4 billion it paid in taxes and royalties in 2016, and says a dispute over $447 million in allegedly unpaid Australian taxes will likely go to court.

The Australian Commissioner of Taxation last week amended income tax assessments to Rio Tinto for the 2010 to 2013 calendar years, requiring the miner to pay an additional $379 million in tax, plus $68 million in interest, for a total of $447 million.

Rio said it paid a total of $25.5 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia alone over that four-year stretch.

But the Australian Tax Office is alleging Rio avoids paying its fair share by using subsidiary companies in Singapore for certain marketing operations.

“Rio Tinto is a major contributor to society and we are proud of the economic activity and wealth we generate through taxes, royalties, employee wages, payments to suppliers and investment in communities,” chief financial officer Chris Lynch said.

Rio this week revealed it paid $2.9 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia in 2016, along with $249 million in Canada, $215 million in Mongolia, $205 million in Chile, $102 million in the US, and $100 million in South Africa.

“From both a global and local perspective, our taxes paid report helps inform our stakeholders about the role we play and the impact we have in the community,” Lynch said.

“While many people know we produce materials that are essential to products they use every day – from telecommunications to transport – this report also helps the public better understand our total contribution to society.”

Meanwhile, a company spokesperson reportedly told the ABC it would take its fight with the ATO to court if it had to.

“Yes, we have an ongoing disagreement with the tax office over the prices we pay our Singapore office for services provided,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“We received a tax bill of around $440 million over the period in question (2010-2013).

“Obviously we don’t agree with the latest ruling by the tax office, and all things being equal, it will very likely lead to a court challenge.

“It’s an unfortunate outcome, but Rio Tinto thinks the tax office has overcooked this latest assessment, so we’d like to clarify an number of items in their claim against us.”

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