$8 million ad campaign to change the way Aussies see tax

An image from the federal government's anti-tax avoidance advertising campaign.
An image from the federal government's anti-tax avoidance advertising campaign.

The Turnbull government has conceded average Australians and small business operators think the tax system is stacked against them, revealing it has spent $8.1 million on a new advertising campaign.

Labor has criticised the tax integrity advertising push, which has seen national TV, radio, newspaper and online marketing about moves to penalise large multinational corporations that move undeclared profits overseas, the creation of a new tax avoidance taskforce and anti-avoidance measures.

It comes after research showed punters had no idea what the government was doing to fix the problems.

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh labelled the campaign budget wasteful and called on the Coalition to back Labor's plans to close tax loopholes being used by big businesses today.

Information provided to a Senate estimates committee shows the advertising campaign cost $4.2 million in the 2016-17 financial year, and $3.9 million in 2017-18.

Under slogans including "Earned here, taxed here - new corporate tax laws", the campaigns are linked to the government's stand alone fairtax.gov website.

Department of Finance officials told the committee the purpose of the campaign was to communicate to the Australian community and small businesses the extent of the Turnbull government's tax integrity and multinational tax avoidance measures.

"Research has shown the general population and small businesses indicated that the tax system was seen to be structured so that multinationals and big businesses were not contributing their fair share, meaning that the population and small business were taking on an unfair burden," officials told the committee.

"The research also indicated there was little or no knowledge of the government's tax integrity measures."

Officials said the advertising spending complied with government guidances designed to prevent taxpayers footing the bill for political content and special measures were in place to communicate with culturally and linguistically diverse Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences.

Supplementing the advertising spend are federal government media releases on the passage of multinational anti-avoidance laws and the penalty 40 per cent diverted profits tax.

Dr Leigh said action was needed to address rising inequality and growing government debt, not more government advertising.

"These results are unsurprising - for too long, dodgy multinationals have been exploiting the loopholes in Australia's tax system and getting away with not paying their fair share," he said.

"Instead of wasting millions of dollars trying to buy credibility for its tax reforms, the Turnbull government should get on board with Labor's plans to close these loopholes and make big business toe the line.

"We want public reporting of country-by-country reports and protection for whistleblowers who uncover tax dodging by multinationals."

Follow Tom McIlroy on Facebook and Twitter

This story $8 million ad campaign to change the way Aussies see tax first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.