A 29-year-old accountant and father-to-be is facing jail for for lifting the lid on a global tax rort worth trillions, including $31 billion in Australia.
It was in the spur of the moment decision when Antoine Deltour walked out of his dream job in Luxembourg armed with 28,000 documents he had secretly downloaded from his employer PriceWaterhouse Coopers.
These included confidential agreements between huge multinationals and Luxembourg - which is a tax haven - and exposed the true scale of the complex and secret web of international tax avoidance.
The bombshell dropped by Deltour has led all the way back to Australia, with fresh revelations that in just one year, 10 companies operating in Australia shifted $31 billion to Singapore where they paid hardly any tax.
The Australian government launched a parliamentary inquiry into the alleged tax evasion of companies including Google, Microsoft and Ikea.
The inquiry’s interim report released today recommends the Government publicly names and shames companies that duck tax by shifting profits overseas.
It also says Australians need to be shown how much revenue to being lost because of it.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari led the parliamentary probe that grilled the big players and says the money should be used to fund better schools, hospitals and roads.
Instead, state and federal governments are looking to increase the GST.
"It’s a rort. It’s thievery. Australian families are getting ripped off. This is money that is being taken and stolen from us."
"This is not a victimless act. Every dollar that is avoided, minimised, dodged, is a dollar that is not going to a hospital or school. I’s a dollar that Australian families have to make up somewhere else."
Some of the world’s biggest and most well-known companies have been implicated in the international scandal, including 20 which were operating in Australia but were diverting revenue to overseas tax havens.
Statements from some of the biggest names have assured the senate they are operating honestly where taxes are concerned.
"The IKEA Group retailer in Australia pays all taxes incurred nationally and locally in accordance with Australian laws and regulations," An Ikea spokesperson said.
"We pay the lion's share of our taxes to the country where our headquarters is based," Maile Carnegie, Managing Director of Google Australia, told the Senate inquiry.
The explosive revelations became known as Lux Leaks and set off a chain reaction across Europe. Several countries have launched investigations into the companies involved.
But Deltour, and the French journalist who helped expose the story, are now facing jail on a string of serious charges because of what they did.
"The basic mechanism is just to move the profit, to shift the profit from high tax country to a low tax country," Deltour told Sunday Night.
"Shift their profits to low tax countries like Luxembourg, also in other countries like Ireland and Netherlands and Cayman Islands."
The French journalist, Ed Perrin, said Deltour, was motivated to act because he sensed massive injustice.
"He saw something that was totally unacceptable and thought that this needed to be known," Perrin said.
"Did he know the risks? I think so, yeah."
Like Luxembourg, Singapore's tax rate is a fraction of what we pay in Australia and if you’re a big company you can even negotiate your own - as low as 5%.
Like Deltour, Jason Ward was part of a coalition of groups that included the Uniting Church that uncovered corporate Australia’s dirty big secret in Singapore.
"The whole idea behind what they do is to try to make this too complex and too challenging and that your average person really doesn't understand it. But at the end of the day it's pretty simple. They're not paying the taxes that they should and they've figured out a legal scheme to do that. And what that means is that you and I are footing the bill for everything."
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