Tax man wields axe on small business

Tax man wields axe on small business
by Adele Ferguson – 09/08/13

The Australian Taxation Office has become the grim reaper of small business after statistics reveal it is behind nearly half the 1365 companies that have been served with wind-up notices in the past three months.
It is a scary trend that is expected to accelerate, according to one of the country’s leading debt collection agencies, Prushka.

It comes as the federal government is cracking down on business and using the ATO as a weapon to claw back revenue to help plug the federal budget deficit.

Data crunched exclusively for Fairfax Media shows that in July 2008 there were 184 wind-up applications served on companies and the ATO was behind 27 per cent of them. Five years later, in July 2013, the ATO was behind 51 per cent of an estimated 613 wind-up notices. When state government entities are added to the mix, the percentages of government-initiated wind-up notices balloon to more than 65 per cent.

Given the rising unemployment, the decision by the RBA to cut official interest rates to record lows and the clunky transition of the economy as the mining boom bubble bursts, it is no surprise that more companies are going under.

The big surprise is the banks are small players in wind-ups, representing less than 5 per cent, and companies supplying services and products are also bit players.

Prushka said given the parlous state of the economy, all efforts should be made to work with struggling companies.

Prushka’s Roger Mendelson says once a company is liquidated, the business is finished. ”We have found that working with defaulting companies produces a far greater recovery than winding them up, provided that the business is viable and there is genuine goodwill shown by the directors to trade out of the situation,” he said.

The ATO sees it differently. The commissioner of taxation, Chris Jordan, said recently: ”We do cop a bit of flak about how we manage small business debt. But, again, it’s about fair play on a level playing field. If we don’t get the right balance, those who are not paying their tax may get an unfair advantage.”
An ATO spokesman said the ATO took legal action, including wind-up proceedings, to collect debts where taxpayers were unwilling to work with the ATO, continually defaulted on agreed arrangements, or did not have the capacity to pay and did not take steps to resolve their situation.

The spokesman also contested the figures and percentage of company wind-up notices initiated by the ATO. ”In 2008-09 (you quoted July 2008 figures of 27 per cent) we initiated 8 per cent of wind-ups and, based on preliminary figures, we are on track for a similar result in 2012-13 (you quoted February 2013 of 41 per cent and April 2013 figures of 47 per cent).”

Companies recently in the ATO’s firing line include NSW-based Lollita Corporation, which says on its website that a wind-up order was ”commenced by the plaintiff Deputy Commissioner of Taxation on 18/06/2013”. Others include Konnectv, which received a wind-up application from the ATO on June 17.

Other statistics reveal two companies a day in the construction and building-related sector are collapsing, as late payments from creditors worsen, activity dries up and banks put the squeeze on funding.

Behind the statistics and companies failing lies a fascinating story. The fact that the ATO is becoming more aggressive in issuing wind-up notices to companies – 593 in the months of May, June and July – is a reflection of underlying insolvency as some have probably not paid their BAS, many wouldn’t have paid their PAYG tax for their employees and it is likely they haven’t paid super on behalf of employees.

As Mendelson says, there is a long time lag between a company being insolvent and then facing liquidation, so it is reasonable to presume that this is the front-end of an underlying trend of increasing SME insolvency.

The figures from Prushka show that in April 2013 417 companies received wind-up notices, with the ATO representing 47 per cent, other government entities 30 per cent, the banks 4 per cent and other 27 per cent.
July was the worst month, with a whopping 613 applications, with the ATO responsible for 51 per cent, government agencies 18 per cent, banks 6 per cent and other 25 per cent.
What is chilling is most of the wind-up notices will be fruitless, with minimal recovery. The banks worked it out during the GFC by adopting careful lending policies to businesses. They also secure loans with mortgages on properties and personal guarantees – both of which are low-hanging fruit in terms of recoveries.

The figures show applications by businesses are low because the costs are too high to liquidate a company. According to Mendelson, most businesses are prepared to go to the statutory demand stage but few are prepared to fund a wind-up. ”This is because the official figures don’t represent the full scale of insolvency but are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. Given the time lag involved, all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

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新西兰恒天然公司宣布该公司被污染奶粉全部下架

新西兰恒天然公司宣布该公司被污染奶粉全部下架
2013-08-07 14:57:02

7日消息,新西兰乳业巨头恒天然公司首席执行官斯皮尔令斯日前宣布,所有该公司生产的被污染奶粉下架停止销售。
据中新网援引外媒7日报道,该公司官网同日发布声明称,中国监管部门在对乳制品价格进行检查后,对公司处以了90万新西兰元(折合人民币447万元)的罚款。
新西兰总理约翰·基也表示,或将因恒天然事件,亲自赴中国进行解释。另外,约翰·基8月5日质疑该国乳业巨头恒天然为何在发现生产线遭污染数个月后,才把事件向公众披露。他认为恒天然应该在发现产品有问题的时候就采取行动,而不是等到确定污染物之后才将结果公诸于众。

上海自贸区总体方案不久将公布 自贸区概念股一览

上海自贸区总体方案不久将公布 自贸区概念股一览
2013年08月07日
来源:证券时报网

五大开放五大创新 上海自贸区政策猜想

上海自由贸易区作为新一届政府拉动经济增长的新引擎,其筹备进展一直为各方关注,但其所涉及的具体方案却始终未能公开。从证券时报记者现在掌握的信息来看,方案最终将可能落实到金融、贸易、航运等五大领域的开放政策,以及管理、税收、法规等五个方面的一揽子创新。

人民币资本项目开放已被提交至自贸区方案中

在刚结束不久的陆家嘴论坛上,上海市市长杨雄表示,自由贸易区的确正在申请试点人民币资本项目下开放,而且这一改革方向不会因为短期的流动性变化、热钱流向的变化而变化。

上海市金融办副主任徐权表示,自贸区的试点内容涉及金融方面的包括利率市场化、汇率自由汇兑、金融业的对外开放、产品创新等,也涉及一些离岸业务。

自贸区将争取15%企业所得税优惠

在上海自由贸易区的新政策中,上海将推动税收创新,包括离岸贸易、金融采用低税率,对境外投资收益采用分期缴纳所得税等优惠政策支持自由贸易园区内企业发展。

证券时报记者从知情人士处获悉,为鼓励企业发展,上海将在税收方面采取低税率,其中将包括对自由贸易区内符合条件的企业减按15%的税率征收企业所得税。

“税收创新方面,上海市政府上下都正在努力向国家要政策,在上海自由贸易区内,对符合条件的企业减按15%的税率征收企业所得税。”知情人士表示,这个税收优惠政策与前海的税收优惠政策相当。

贸易领域将实施创新监管新模式

在贸易领域,上海自由贸易区将实施“一线逐步彻底放开、二线安全高效管住、区内货物自由流动”的创新监管服务新模式,这是较目前上海综合保税区的主要区别。

构建离岸金融中心需行政法规创新

日前,上海已向国务院申报将综合保税区建设成为自由贸易区,使区内中外企业享有区内贸易自由、人员进出自由、货物进出自由、货币流通自由、货物存储自由等五大权益。

而离岸金融业务是自由贸易区的重要组成部分,因此上海建立自由贸易区的同时也需构建离岸金融市场。但是上海在探索建立离岸金融市场的同时,也面临法规的障碍,因而需要制度的创新。

借自贸东风国际航运中心建设或有新突破

证券时报记者获悉,上海自贸区关于航运发展将延续此前国务院“建设国际航运中心”的政策,即大力发展船舶交易、船舶管理、航运经纪、航运咨询、船舶技术等各类航运服务机构,拓展航运服务产业链,延伸发展现代物流等关联产业,不断完善航运服务功能。

上海国际航运发展综合试验区的探索之路始于2009年,经过近年来的推进,上海国际航运发展综合试验区在各个方面取得了一些进展,然而,由于法律、税收、金融等方面的短板,目前上海距离巴拿马、新加坡、香港等世界级航运中心仍有距离。

超7成创业板公司存在单一控股股东

超7成创业板公司存在单一控股股东
2013-08-08

深交所最新发布2012深市上市公司治理情况报告显示,从第一大股东平均持股比例来看,主板、中小板和创业板持股分别是34.26%、37.18%和33.92%。其中,第一大股东持股的最大值是银亿股份,其实际控制人熊续强通过宁波银亿控股间接持有上市公司的89.16%股份;最小值是南玻A,其第一大股东持股3.62%。
以国际上通行的持股25%以上作为控股股东标准,深市有65%的主板、76%的中小板和74%的创业板公司存在着单一控股股东。这与欧洲大陆国家非常相似,如82.5%的德国公司、65.8%的意大利公司和64.2%的瑞典上市公司都存在单一控股股东。

中概股私有化升温:市场交易寡淡 “逃避”抑或转型

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中概股私有化升温:市场交易寡淡 “逃避”抑或转型
2013-03-20 13:31:00 来源:第一财经日报 评论(0条)
  近日,柯莱特宣布收到董事长兼CEO马一鸣和董事周鹤发起的收购要约,将收购所有不属于买方集团及其附属机构和某些可以选择加入买方集团管理层的在外流通股,私有化价格为每ADS 1.85美元。

  这是继7天、飞鹤国际、新能源系统、先声药业之后,本月内又一家宣布私有化计划的中概股公司。

  近期美股迭创新高,但中概股公司股价表现平平。在美国资本市场上,中概股的退市意愿比以往都要强烈。

  “公司规模翻了几倍,但从资本市场来看,市值并不高。”一家近期退市的中概股公司高层告诉《第一财经日报》,中概股受做空风暴的影响,特别是同行业公司出事被摘牌,让公司股价更加被低估。

  “中概股主动退市绝大部分是因为股价低迷,交易量寡淡,也就失去了再融资平台的功能,且每年需要高额的上市维持费用。还有少数私有化退市,是出于自身战略转型的需要。”北京大学金融与产业发展研究中心秘书长黄嵩在接受本报采访时说。

  为了得到更高的估值,中概股公司陆续抛出回归计划,不过目前尚无成功案例。“美国退市非常复杂,过程中会有很多意想不到的成本和问题产生。”KPMG并购和私募基金业务税务合伙人马源告诉本报,“比如税负方面,国外的税收环境、税收法规、监管环境都与国内不一样。退市的方式、步骤不同,也会产生不同的税负。”

  然而,即便是从美国退市面临高成本,国内IPO迟迟未开闸,港股估值低迷,也没有吓退中概股公司的私有化决心。黄嵩预计,2013年开始会有大批中概股退市。

  不过,能否融到资金是退市能否实现的关键。“如果控股股东没有足够的资金,又融不到钱,那就完成不了私有化。”黄嵩说,“进行私有化操作,控股股东要收购其他股东的股票,需要大量资金,如果没有足够的自有资金,就需要通过融资来完成收购。”

  虽然中概股公司纷纷表示美国监管环境的高要求与公司退市没有直接关系,但是投资者对中概股普遍的“不待见”却是事实。

  马源发现,中概股公司上市时对公司架构、业务模式、内控制度、信息披露、税务设计等考虑不充分就上市的现象并不罕见。他表示,这种估计不足,会对企业上市后在资本市场上的表现和后续运作都产生影响。

  中国社科院金融研究所研究员易宪容对本报称,中概股退市是中国企业经营方式对海外制度和规则的不适应,是“逃避”。“做空机构的关注,让有的公司不寒而栗,因为上市的时候就搞了很多不适合的东西。”他说。

  不少中概股公司将股价低迷归咎于做空机构的做空行为。但黄嵩认为,如果公司真正好,做空最多导致股价的暂时下跌,如果股价持续下跌,那说明本身公司价值就被高估,做空只是说破“皇帝的新装”的那个小孩。

  另一名经历过退市的公司高层告诉本报,在海外资本市场转过一圈后他很深的感触是,发现中国大部分企业对上市的理解还是有些偏差的。“现在我的感受是,上市对一家企业而言一定是个起点,而不是终点。”他说。

  事实上,多位专家学者都表示退市是一种资本市场的正常现象,应该得到正视。“即使美国公司每年也有大量退市。”黄嵩表示,同样应该被正视的还有上市。“上市之后,就是要承受”强烈的业绩压力、股价压力、增长压力”。投资者投给公司的钱,不是”利润”而是”成本”,是要上市公司用这些钱去赚更多的钱。否则就是我们常常说的”圈钱”。”

ATO has ramped up its scrutiny of people with offshore interests

Financial Review
The Australian Taxation Office has ramped up its scrutiny of people with offshore interests, in preparation for an avalanche of information and global assistance to make tax dodgers pay from January 1.
A multilateral convention on tax administration will come into force on that day, giving the ATO unprecedented access to help from more than 50 countries in catching tax evaders.
“We’ve been quite proactive in reviewing the cases on hand so we can be fully prepared when the convention comes into force,” said second commissioner Bruce Quigley at an Institute of Chartered Accountants tax conference in Sydney.
Mr Quigley said that the new convention, signed by the ATO this year, was important because it not only facilitated information exchanges and joint audits, but gave “most significantly assistance in collection”.
“Very very few of our treaties have collection articles in them,” he said.
The new convention will add to the 44 tax treaties and 33 tax information exchange agreements entered so far, many of the latter with traditional tax havens.
“In countries like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Liechtenstein… if you go back a few years what chance do you think we’d ever have of sharing information with those tax havens, or low tax jurisdictions? It’s a great step in the context of transparency.”
Mr Quigley also spoke of the ATO’s use of new transfer pricing laws that tax experts fear will give the office unprecedented power to reframe cross border deals to extract more tax.
“I hear rumblings of concern that the ATO’s going to take advantage, to take a much more aggressive stance, but basically we won’t be changing our approach,” he said.
Mr Quigley said the new laws were “entirely consistent with the view we’ve always had”.
The ATO would continue to audit arrangements entered by companies in previous years, but it would not reopen cases closed under the old laws, he said.
Efforts to shut down tax havens have dramatically reduced the flow of funds to avoid tax, including a 79 per cent drop last year in funds siphoned to Liechtenstein.
Mr Quigley said technology was playing a vital role in the efforts.
“The more and more developments that come with technology the more and more we can close the gaps in the sea if you like.”
This week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has urged all countries to agree on how to tax internet transactions to avoid losing billions of dollars in revenue during the online sales boom.
Multinationals that provide services or trade in intangible goods such as advertising and software downloads have come under increasing fire for paying little tax.
Amazon was hit with a tax bill of more than $US250 million ($241.2 million) in France this month. In the UK, its executives faced scrutiny from a parliamentary committee investigating concerns that global companies did not pay enough tax. Google also appeared.
Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said in July that Google’s low tax payment in Australia highlighted “a big issue relating to the erosion of the Australian tax base” that over time “will become material” as a result of the digital economy.
Google Australia’s financial accounts for the 2011 calendar year show the global search giant’s Australian subsidiary paid only $74,176 in tax on revenue of $201 million. However, industry sources estimate Google’s total revenue from online search advertising in Australia was about $1.1 billion last year.
It is believed about $900 million of its ad revenue generated in Australia last year was mostly billed by its Ireland division. Google said it “complies fully with all relevant tax rules”.
In July, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy responded by insisting that making changes to transfer pricing rules was the solution. Legislation introduced into Parliament at that time to change Australian transfer pricing rules would stop the erosion of the tax base from e-commerce, Mr Conroy said.
Transfer pricing relates to inter-company transactions within multinational companies. Tax authorities can make judgments on whether multinationals are paying the requisite amount of tax on revenue actually earned in the local jurisdiction, with the aim of preventing them shifting profits to lower-tax jurisdictions.
The authorities can try to estimate the local revenue by comparing so-called arm’s length prices.
But tax experts doubted whether transfer pricing rules could solve taxation issues with multinational internet and technology companies. There is also doubt as to whether transfer pricing is relevant in some instances, including Google.
It is believed that Australian advertisers booking ads with Google are mostly billed by its Irish subsidiary, making transfer pricing rules irrelevant.
As the final report of the business tax working group noted: “To the extent that a firm’s value is tied to the value of its intellectual property, a firm is able to minimise its overall tax liability by basing such intangible assets in a country with a low statutory tax rate.”