When Lleyton Hewitt walked out on the tennis court at Wimbledon for the last time, in late June, it was interesting to note that his “Player Details” showed that he was not in fact a resident of Australia. This was not surprising even though we consider Lleyton Hewitt to be an iconic Australian sportsman who has, like Pat Rafter, lifted the profile of Australian Tennis during the last 10-15 years. Lleyton Hewitt was in fact listed as a resident of Nassau, in The Bahamas. There is no personal income tax in The Bahamas, although residents do pay a form of tax which can be less than 3%. Is this hypocrisy? Will the Australian Taxation Office and Joe Hockey both who have publically criticised Google and Apple, in recent Senate enquiries for avoiding their Australian tax obligations, also be pursuing Lleyton Hewitt?
You are entitled to structure your affairs to minimise income tax. This is not tax avoidance and the term “tax avoidance” has been used incorrectly by the Green Senators and other Senators who have chaired the Senate Committee looking into the offshore activities of Google and Apple. These companies are operating within the law, like Lleyton Hewitt by structuring their affairs to minimise tax. In fact, companies like Apple and Google are creating employment and contributing to the Australian Economy, whilst Lleyton Hewitt has made no direct contribution to employment, or consumption in Australia.
I find it disgraceful that the Australian Taxation Office and certain politicians feel that it is necessary to attack large companies who are creating thousands of jobs within Australia, and have labelled them as “tax avoiders” whereas we pay homage to our sportsmen and women who seem to do no wrong in our eyes. Let’s get real and have a level playing field so to speak. If you are going to attack and criticise companies for arranging affairs in order to minimise Australian tax, then the same criticism should be also applied to those sportspeople who we seem to worship and yet ignore the fact that they are doing the exact same thing.
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