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Shell Throws a Tantrum Over $99 Million Tax Bill

Posted by John Donovan: 17 May 2024

In a classic display of corporate audacity, Shell is throwing a fit and suing the Australian Tax Office (ATO) over a claim that it owes a measly $99 million in unpaid taxes. This dispute stems from Shell’s $3.5 billion exit from Woodside Petroleum back in 2017. Because when you’re a multibillion-dollar oil giant, every penny counts, right?

The ATO has the audacity to argue that Shell understated its capital gains by a whopping $193.9 million for the 2017 sale and an additional $135.7 million for a 2014 sale. But Shell, with its pristine track record of environmental and financial responsibility (cue laughter), insists it has complied with all tax obligations. They even claim to have a “cooperative relationship” with the ATO. Cooperative, as in, “We cooperate by trying to pay as little tax as possible.”

This legal tiff comes after Shell finally managed to offload its 13.3% stake in Woodside, netting a cool $3.5 billion. The ATO’s commissioner of taxation, however, decided in February that Shell had conveniently underestimated its profits from this sell-off. Hence, the $99 million tax bill, which is apparently a big deal for a company that reported a profit of $US632.7 million ($949.5 million) in 2023.

And let’s not forget the golden years of 2022, when Shell’s Australian operations basked in profits of $US2.7 billion ($4.05 billion). In a true act of corporate generosity, Shell paid $US37 million ($55.5 million) in tax last year. For those keeping track, that’s just a tiny fraction of their hefty earnings. But hey, who’s counting?

The showdown is set for a case management hearing on July 29. In the meantime, Shell can continue to revel in its cooperative relationship with tax authorities worldwide, while the rest of us mortals cough up our fair share.

So, as Shell gears up for its court date, one can’t help but marvel at the sheer nerve. Here’s hoping the ATO gives them the tax bill they deserve. After all, it’s about time the corporate giant learns that they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

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