Oxfam is right. Big Pharma are shockers on tax

by | Sep 18, 2018 | Despatch, Tax

The Big Pharma corporations deny it, they have rejected the Oxfam allegations, but it’s true; they are tax dodgers.

Oxfam issued a report today, Prescription for Poverty, which examines the financial activities of four of the world’s largest global pharmaceutical companies – Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck & Co (known as Merck Sharp & Dohme or MSD in Australia) and Abbott.

Bottom of the canal: Pfizer’s billion-dollar tax rort

The report found that in Australia, the four are estimated to have unfairly avoided paying $215 million in taxes a year between 2013 and 2015. Such practices, while not illegal, are not in line with the spirit of the law.

Johnson & Johnson break the law, duck for cover


“Unfair tax avoidance by pharmaceutical companies behind some of Australia’s most trusted brands – including Band Aid, Centrum and ChapStick – is depriving Australia’s coffers of an estimated $215 million a year – and developing countries of more than $146 million – in urgently needed funds to help tackle poverty,” said Oxfam.

Breaking Bad: the tax antics of drug giant Abbvie

This reporter, having examined the financial statements of a range of Big Pharma companies operating in Australia can confirm aggressive tax practices. As a sector, Big Pharma donates to political parties and gains significant corporate welfare benefits from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

And they beat us in the PBS too

Oxfam’s report found the four are estimated to have “unfairly avoided paying $215 million in taxes a year between 2013 and 2015”.

We believe, taking into account Part IVa of the Tax Act, the Oxfam estimates are probably generous.

Smoke & Mirrors: the systemic campaign of multinational tax secrecy

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Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.

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