The Australian tax avoidance taskforce has 1,000 specialist officers to police the new regime and mete out penalties for offenders. Source: Atstock Productions/Shutterstock

AUSTRALIAN Treasurer Scott Morrison said on Thursday the country expected to claw back AUD2.9 billion (US$2.19 billion) from multinational companies under tax avoidance legislation.

Morrison did not disclose the names of the companies being targeted by the Australian Taxation Office, and the ATO did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In December, the ATO said it was pursuing seven global businesses over AUD2 billion in unpaid tax.

The Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law, which came into effect in December 2015, was aimed at addressing the problem of multinational companies using loopholes to minimise tax paid in Australia. It applies to companies with an annual global income exceeding AUD1 billion.

The ATO’s Tax Avoidance Taskforce has 1,000 specialist officers to police the new regime with harsher penalties for those found flouting the rules.

“We are making sure that multinationals, as they should, pay their fair share of tax, so that Australian citizens get the tax from the profits earned in Australia from Australian customers that is needed to fund vital infrastructure and services here in this country,” Morrison said in a speech on Thursday.

Global miner Rio Tinto said on Wednesday the ATO had issued amended tax assessments for the calendar years 2010 to 2013, requiring the company to pay AUD447 million including interest.

However, Rio said the amended assessments did not relate to any tax avoidance schemes as confirmed by the ATO, and instead involved transfer pricing arrangements between Rio entities in Australia and Singapore.

– Reuters