Paying tax has become optional for 56 of Australia's highest earners.
Newly-released tax statistics show each of the 56 paid next to no income tax in 2013–14, not even the Medicare Levy, even though each earned more than $1 million.
But escaping tax cost the millionaires dearly. The same document shows 27 of the 56 claimed a combined $46.7 million for the "cost of managing tax affairs", around $1.7 million each.
The Tax Office says "cost of managing tax affairs" includes the cost of preparing and lodging tax returns, the fees paid to recognised tax advisors, the cost of court appeals and interest charges imposed in relation to tax disputes.
Combined, the 56 earned $128.6 million, around $2.3 million each.
The claims for the cost of managing tax affairs are so big in relation to their reported incomes as to raise suspicions that at least some had access to extra income they did not report.
Each of the 56 managed to drive their taxable incomes down below the $18,200 tax-free threshold. Fifty-one managed to drive their taxable incomes down below $6000. Forty-three reported taxable incomes of zero. Eight reported combined losses of $19.3 million.
Fifteen claimed a combined $21 million for gifts or donations to charities and political parties, equating to $1.4 million each. Three claimed deductions for uniforms or clothing, amounting to $150 each. Seven claimed deductions for interest payments, amounting to a combined $4 million.
Nine had been unsuccessful farmers, carrying forward previous losses of $6 million. Four had been unsuccessful in other businesses, bringing forward previous losses of $18.1 million. Seventeen had sold assets at a loss, carrying forward capital losses of $28.2 million. Five negatively geared, losing between them $240,000 in rent.
All but two paid no income tax at all. One paid $3603, the other was asked to pay just $4...
>Millionaires weren't the only high-income Australians who managed to bring their taxable incomes down below the tax-free threshold. Another 117 high earners taking home between $500,000 and $1 million managed to drive their taxable incomes below the $18,200 tax-free threshold, paying no tax. They paid a combined $15 million to manage their tax affairs.
Another 2305 Australians earning between $100,000 and $500,000 succeeded in bringing their taxable incomes below the tax-free threshold in order to pay no tax. Between them they made $420 million. After deductions they lost a combined $38.2 million. They spent $47.9 million managing their tax affairs and lost $16.2 million negatively gearing.
A Tax Office spokesman said there were legitimate reasons wealthy taxpayers might escape paying tax in any particular year. Nevertheless wealthy taxpayers that do not pay tax were more likely to attract the attention of the Office and be subject to further scrutiny to ensure they are complying with their obligations.
"It is the Tax Office's role to safeguard Australia's tax and superannuation systems and ensure a level playing field," he said. "A key part of this is working closely with individuals we have identified as being wealthy (controlling assets between $5 million -$30 million) or highly wealthy (controlling more than $30 million)."
The figures show 1.26 million Australians negatively geared during 2013–14, around 1 in every 10 taxpayers. A further 777,000 rented properties for profit. The negative gearers lost $11 billion between them, far more than the $7.2 billion made by landlords who rented for profit.
The average wage or salary income in 2013-14 was $56,690. The highest taxable incomes, averaging $200,015, were found in the Sydney postcode of 2027, which takes in Darling Point, Edgecliff, Rushcutters Bay and Point Piper in the Prime Minister's electorate of Wentworth. The second-highest average taxable incomes of $167,407 were in the Melbourne postcode of 3142, which takes in Hawksburn and Toorak.In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald