May 25, 2018 Read More →

Australian Tax Office Studying Financing of Northern Gas Pipeline

Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

The Australian Tax Office is investigating the Chinese-Singapore-owned company building the Northern Gas Pipeline from the Northern Territory to Queensland over how the project is being financed. In its latest financial report, released last month, Jemena’s parent company SGSP Assets Pty Ltd revealed: “The Australian Tax Office is currently conducting a transfer pricing audit in relation to the company’s convertible instruments”.

The green legal group Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) had asked the Tax Office to investigate the financing arrangements Jemena is using to pay for the 622-kilometre pipeline, running from Tennant Creek to Mount Isa. “We understand the tax office’s investigation into Jemena for transfer pricing likely relates to a 2015 restructure that could potentially see the company avoid paying up to half a billion dollars worth of taxes, leaving the Australian taxpayer out of pocket,” said EJA’s principal lawyer David Barnden.

The ATO has recently increased scrutiny of the overseas financing being used by resources companies, Barnden said. “There have been a few high-profile cases against companies for transfer pricing; the latest one was against Chevron,” he said.

EJA said it would ask the NT’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) — once it is established later this year — to investigate whether Jemena exercised undue influence on the NT Government to gain an exemption from the new national gas rules.

“Jemena took part in an 18-month competitive tender process run by the Northern Territory Government to win the right to build, own, and operate the Northern Gas Pipeline,” the company said. “This process also set the access terms including price for use of the pipeline. As a result of this process, users of the pipeline can be certain the pipeline’s tariffs are competitive.”

Investment analyst Bruce Robertson from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said he didn’t expect that would remain the case. “A gas pipeline is a natural monopoly,” he said.

More: ATO Investigating Jemena over Financing for NT-to-Queensland Gas Pipeline

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