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Archive for May, 2019

CBA raises interest rates on investor and interest-only loans

Monday, 13 May, 2019

Australia’s biggest bank has hiked fixed interest rates on investor and interest-only home loans.
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The Commonwealth Bank said the move was to ensure it “continue[d] to meet our regulatory requirements”.

Fixed rates on interest-only loans will rise by 25 basis points, while investor home loans that are principal and interest will rise by 25 basis points. Investor loans that are interest only will rise by between 25 and 50 basis points.

The changes are effective immediately.

The big four banks have been lifting rates on investor and interest-only loans after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority moved to tighten lending in those areas amid concerns about heightened risk in the housing market.

The regulator wrote to all banks last month, outlining new requirements for banks to reduce interest-only lending to 30 per cent of total mortgage lending. Currently the banks sit at around 40 per cent.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is also conducting surveillance in the interest-only lending sector to identify lenders and mortgage brokers who are recommending high numbers of more expensive interest-only loans.

Interest-only lending allows borrowers to pay back only the interest on a loan over a period of time, usually up to five years. They are considered higher risk because the repayments rise sharply once the interest-only period ends.

CBA said home loan customers who already had a fixed rate loan with the bank would not be affected by the changes.

“Home buyers looking to make principal and interest repayments and live in their property are not affected,” a spokesperson said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Chevron eyes high court as it loses landmark tax case

Monday, 13 May, 2019

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 23: Grant Wardell-Johnson of KPMG poses for a picture on July 23, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media) Photo: Daniel MunozMultinational oil giant Chevron has lost its appeal against a multimillion-dollar tax bill issued by the Australian Taxation Office, setting the scene for the tax man to challenge other companies with dubious tax schemes.
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While Chevron’s appeal to the Full Federal Court is not the end of the matter – the company has told Fairfax Media it may appeal to the High Court – the case has emboldened Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan to go after other multinationals.

The Australian Taxation Office has already issued tax bills totalling $2.9 billion to seven large companies.

The Chevron case was in many ways a major test case for the ATO, and will have global implications for the way tax paid by large companies is assessed.

The ATO has been fiercely battling Chevron in court over unpaid taxes between 2004 and 2008.

The case examined the tax deductibility of a $2.5 billion inter-company loan made from a Chevron subsidiary in Delaware to Chevron Australia.

The Full Federal Court unanimously agreed with the ATO that Chevron used a series of loans and related-party payments worth billions of dollars to slash its tax bill by about $300 million. ATO is ‘heartened’ by outcome

The agency has to date spent more than $10 million in out-of-pocket expenses in the the Chevron case and was hoping for a win.

The ATO will now be able to challenge other companies with similar transfer pricing arrangements.

In 2015, Chevron paid itself $2.2 billion in interest payments; that amount is over half of the $3.9 billion in offshore interest payments to related parties that the ATO reported for the offshore oil and gas industry in its recent submission.

“We are heartened by the outcome,” an ATO spokesman told Fairfax Media. “This is the first matter to reach an Australian court which tests how our transfer pricing rules apply to interest paid on a cross-border related party loan.

“In short, the Court did not accept the proposition that the Australian subsidiary group of Chevron should be allowed to claim interest on the basis that its borrowings should be judged under the transfer pricing rules as if it was a standalone ‘orphan’ company separate from the rest of the Chevron Group.”

“This decision is significant and has direct implications for a number of cases the ATO is currently pursuing in relation to related party loans, as well as indirect implications for other transfer pricing cases.”

The ATO noted that Australia’s transfer pricing rules have been further strengthened since the years under consideration in the Chevron decision, and there were also tougher domestic laws including the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law and Diverted Profits Tax. Chevron can appeal

But a Chevron spokesman signalled this may not be the end of the battle. “Chevron is disappointed [with] today’s decision … We will review the decision to determine next steps, which may include an appeal to the High Court of Australia.

“As recognised by the trial court in the dispute, the financing is a legitimate business arrangement and the parties differ only in their assessments of the appropriate interest rate to apply.”

He said Chevron Australia was one of Australia’s largest investors and employers and since 2009 had paid almost $4 billion in federal and state taxes and royalties.

The tax and business community have also been keenly watching the case.

“The ATO’s win against Chevron should send a strong signal to all multinationals that these blatant tax avoidance schemes will be challenged,” said International Transport Workers Federation senior researcher Jason Ward. The union, which represents workers on the offshore LNG projects of WA, has been a vocal critic of Chevron.

“With this judgement, Chevron should be forced to change the current $42 billion loan which is already being audited by the ATO. If the current larger scheme is not restructured, Australians will lose billions more in future tax revenue.” Global ramifications

KPMG tax partner Grant Wardell-Johnson said the case would have global ramifications. Companies could no longer postulate that a subsidiary is completely independent of its parent.

“You cannot treat it as if it were an orphan,” he said. “Rather you must take into account the common ownership in determining the appropriate consideration.”

The Tax Institute’s senior tax counsel Robert Deutsch said “multinationals should as a matter of urgency review their existing offshore financing arrangements in light of this decision”.

“The decision may yet be appealed to the High Court but there is neither certainty that such an appeal will be made nor, if made, that it would be successful,” he said. “For the moment all parties should proceed on the basis that the Full Federal Court has provided the final word on this matter.”

Chartered Accountants tax leader Michael Croker said: “This is such an important win for the ATO and will influence many conversations with other multinational companies.”

He said the Chevron decision could influence government thinking on the need for further statutory limits on interest deductibility, noting Labor’s worldwide gearing ratio policy.

“But there are those who say Australia’s resource based economy and substantial infrastructure needs mean we cannot be too proscriptive on interest deductions,” he said. “One model is to impose restrictions but allow the Treasurer to authorise higher gearing for nation-building projects.”

Shadow assistant treasurer, Andrew Leigh, said the decision highlighted the importance of closing debt-shifting loopholes. “For all its hot air, the Turnbull Government has consistently opposed Labor’s fair measures to tighten the rules that let multinationals use internal loans to shift profits offshore,” Mr Leigh said.

Australian Greens finance spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said Chevron had fought for almost 15 years against paying its fair share of tax to Australians. “The Chevrons and Adanis of this world do not need, or deserve, handouts from the Australian taxpayer when billions are being ripped out of our school system and our young people are struggling with record cost-of-living expenses”. Senate inquiry

The Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, which has looked at profit-shifting techniques used by tech giants including Apple, Google and Microsoft will now shift its full focus to the oil and gas industry. New hearings are expected to take place in Perth on April 28.

As outlined by both Chevron and the ATO in the Senate hearing in 2015, the new $42 billion loan, like the smaller $2.5 billion loan in the court case, is a hybrid loan structure. It reduces profits in Australia and makes tax-free interest income in Delaware.

The Delaware parent company, which has no office and employees, pays an annual filing fee to the state of Delaware of $US175 and no tax on interest income.

Chevron admitted in the Senate hearings that this larger loan, under audit by the ATO, could reduce corporate income tax payments in Australia by $15 billion. But tax experts say the actual impact could be much larger.

The ATO will be releasing detailed guidance to help companies with related party loans comply with Australia’s transfer pricing rules.

Follow Nassim Khadem on Facebook and Twitter.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Coke loses fizz as Australians turn off soft drinks

Monday, 13 May, 2019

Investors in Coca-Cola Amatil have pummelled the soft drink giant after weak trading at its core local beverages arm prompted an earnings downgrade and sending shares down more than 10 per cent.
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Australia accounts for about two thirds of Coca-Cola Amatil’s market. The company has been challenged to grow market share in a saturated and price-sensitive market that has increasingly turned its back on soft drinks.

Scan data obtained by Fairfax Media revealed soft drink sales slumped 2.9 per cent in volume in the 2016 financial year across the aisles of Coles, Woolworths, Foodworks and IGA supermarkets, reversing almost a decade of growth in the sector.

“Trading in Australian Beverages for the year to date has been weaker than last year with all channels experiencing volume and price pressure due to competition and category trends,” Coca-Cola Amatil told the market on Friday.

“Amatil management expects underlying (before non-trading items) net profit after tax [NPAT] will decline in the first half of 2017.

“While our medium term target continues to be mid single-digit earnings per share growth, at this early stage of the year we are expecting full year underlying NPAT to be broadly in line with last year. This is largely driven by the challenges being experienced in Australian Beverages.”

After a solid run this year, Coca-Cola Amatil’s shares were smashed on Friday, closing down 10.7 per cent to $9.61, wiping about $800 million from the company’s market capitalisation.

Bruce Smith, of investment fund Alphinity, said the announcement cast doubt on Coca-Cola Amatil’s full-year results.

“Everyone has known that the local business has been struggling to grow volumes and it’s difficult for the whole company to prosper when the biggest part has flat or declining volumes,” he said.

“It feels a bit hopeful to say full year will be in line … being down to date, and with so much of the year to go and so much earned in the final quarter, I’d be surprised if the company was really confident about a flat full year.”

Dean Fergie, director and portfolio manager at Cyan Investment Management, described the announcement as “disappointing” and lacking in detail.

“I’m not surprised the re-rating has been sharp and I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues,” he said.

“If they can’t produce even modest EPS [earnings per share] growth the stock moves from being what has previously been a growth stock to a value stock, and then your PE [price to earnings ratio] goes from 30 times back to 15.

“If I were a shareholder I’d be really reassessing my position because it looks like they’ve gone, certainly domestically, ex-growth.”

Coca-Cola Amatil, which is 29 per cent owned by The Coca-Cola Company of the US, said trading in New Zealand and Fiji, Alcohol, Coffee and food business SPC were within expectations.

Papua New Guinea was performing well and while trading in Indonesia continued to be affected by soft market growth, the business was delivering to expectations, it said.

“Amatil’s initiatives, which includes strategies to address the structural changes in our market and rebalance our portfolio, working together with our partner, The Coca-Cola Company, continue to be implemented. Further time is required for these initiatives to gain traction.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sweating on every word – how ASIC massaged the banking message

Monday, 13 May, 2019

Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 20 March 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares”Sorry about this, it’s obviously a huge deal for CFP [Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning unit]. They have sweated over EVERY word in the media release, believe me …”
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Rather than being an email from a CBA PR about a press release it was about to issue, it is an email from an ASIC executive, relating to an enforceable undertaking after finding gross misconduct in its financial planning division, thanks to a tip-off from CBA whistleblower Jeff Morris.

The executive was part of a process that saw ASIC taking weeks to draft press releases then submitting them for vetting to the very organisations they are supposed to be policing.

It sounds like something out of a Monty Python or Yes Minister skit but sadly it is not.

ASIC documents released in response to a freedom of information request made by News Limited two years ago show that it was commonplace until 2015 for ASIC to send draft press releases to the banks for feedback before issuing them to the media and the public.

In some cases ASIC acted like an extension of the banks’ PR team. By doing this it left itself open to being bullied into submission. Email correspondence between various ASIC staff reveals that sometimes the sugar-coating was self imposed, with some ASIC staff wanting to go in hard, while others pulled rank and went in soft. ‘Dialling down’

In one press release dated May 2014 that relates to ASIC imposing new licence conditions on two of CBA’s financial planning arms, an original draft press release called it for what it was: the business had “misled” ASIC over its compensation scheme and the methodology used to compensate clients.

But the word “misled” was dropped by an ASIC executive.

The ASIC media staffer, who no longer works at the regulator, wrote back: “We are not stating openly that CBA misled us? Are we dialling down that rhetoric?”

He goes on to say: “We have removed the reference about the results of the review being monitored by ASIC and will be made public? Do we want to consider that such a reference would provide some (even if on a minuscule scale) sort of comfort/reassurance to customers/media/observers who when they read this or hear about it third-hand will (already being disillusioned by how this matter has been handled) roll their eyes and refuse to believe there are no other surprises lurking about? Also consider the issue of transparency (then and now) being at the heart of this whole CFPL matter.”

The version that was released doesn’t mention “misled” and, after weeks of editing, plays down the significance of the licence conditions.

What is most interesting is the attitude of one of CBA’s spin doctors on receiving the draft release: “I think the language needs to align. A bit about semantics but we do need to be clear so will make some suggested adjustments.”

Asked about the arrangement a CBA spokesman said: “We value our relationship with regulators and we engage with them every day on a range of topics. ASIC plays a crucial role in ensuring Australia has a strong and stable financial system, and fact-checking statements prior to announcements is an important part of a regulatory process.”

It is all too cosy. Neutral tone

“Systemic fraud”, “systemic theft”, doctoring of customer files and “lying to clients”, were some of the words used by Senator Mark Bishop, who chaired the Senate inquiry into ASIC and the CBA, and recommended a royal commission into the bank’s financial planning arm.

In contrast, ASIC’s press releases favour a “neutral tone” about its concerns, as one email relating to a NAB release reveals. Words such as “superficial” were airbrushed from a Macquarie draft press release despite an independent experts report being considered a “sham” by a senior officer at ASIC.

In one press release ASIC deliberately left out the compensation figure despite knowing what it was. Correspondence between ASIC and Westpac relating to a dodgy Westpac home loan manager, David St Pierre, who has since been sentenced to jail, was rejigged with the ASIC PR saying to her colleague the restructure was to “placate” Westpac.

Emails show Westpac and ASIC discussing the timing of the media release and Westpac giving ASIC the heads-up it was briefing Senator Williams.

Again, not a good look. Nor was ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell’s curious remarks: “Given the good Senator’s current practices we should expect it to be leaked very quickly. I assume Westpac understand this?”

What is particularly disturbing is ASIC continued to send out draft press releases to the banks after chairman Greg Medcraft told a parliamentary inquiry into the performance of ASIC that the regulator had been “too trusting” of the banks, particularly CBA in its dealings with it over a financial planning arm.

That same Senate inquiry had found ASIC was too timid and trusting and that this was “inherently dangerous to ASIC’s legitimacy as a regulator”. ASIC promised to lift its game. Despite this, the policy to show draft releases and allow them to be edited continued. Culture exposed

It speaks volumes about the culture. It can only serve to embarrass Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who described ASIC as the tough cop on the beat when defending his decision not to have a royal commission into financial services despite public support.

ASIC says it changed its policy on media releases in February 2015. That’s all well and good, but the brutal reality is that policy only changed after Fairfax Media embarrassed it with an article, “ASIC allowed NAB to check and alter media releases”, in February 2015. The article was picked up in a Senate hearing by Senator Williams, with a commitment from ASIC that it wouldn’t do it anymore.

The information was supplied to Fairfax by a NAB whistleblower who released documents that showed ASIC agreeing to alter a draft media release about a significant, six-year-long system error in NAB Wealth’s Navigator platform, which affected tens of thousands of customers.

These documents shine a light on the impact of getting the heads-up on press releases. One internal NAB document says that “feedback provided was incorporated into the final release”, contributing to a “well executed” strategy that resulted in “minimal” media coverage and public reaction.

It was a win for NAB. A February 2014 document obtained by Fairfax refers to ASIC’s acceptance of NAB’s plan to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers to independently review the Navigator problem. “This approach avoided a formal enforceable undertaking.”

A second February document states: “This is a less severe regulatory outcome than was originally anticipated.”

Instead of calling it for what it was, the media release, issued on May 2, 2014, described it as “a systems error that resulted in some customers having incorrect investment income allocated to their account”. In the media release, ASIC acknowledged the “co-operative approach taken by NAB Wealth in this matter”. Macquarie sham

Another set of correspondence relating to Macquarie and its financial planning scandal describes an Ernst & Young independent experts report as a “sham”.

The ASIC officer Adrian Borchok, who has since left ASIC, who labelled it a sham requests the word superficial be included in the draft press release. However, Louise Macaulay, who is still at ASIC, wrote: “In para 5 do we really want to say ‘superficial’, as MEL [Macquarie Equities Limited] did engage EY to do a review of their compliance system.”

Borchok fired back: “I think the use of ‘superficial’ is appropriate because it reflects the situation. Further, the EY review was a sham therefore they are getting off easy with ‘superficial’.”

Correspondence such as this never came to light in the Senate inquiry into ASIC. Nor was it raised as an issue in a productivity commission report into ASIC and its capabilities.

A royal commission would compel complete correspondence as well as the various independent expert reports, along with a lot more.

Is it regulatory capture? Naivety? Why ASIC adopted such a policy in the first place is hard to understand. Whatever the reason, it strikes at the heart of the culture inside the regulator. It is why when Mr Medcraft finishes his term as chairman later this year it is imperative his replacement comes from outside and isn’t part of the club.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Litbits April 22 2017

Monday, 13 May, 2019

ABR Gender Fellowship
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Australian Book Review is seeking proposals for a substantial article on any aspect of gender in Australian literature (any genre). The Fellowship is worth $7500 and applications $7500. Applications close May 1. See: australianbookreview南京夜网419论坛. ACU Poetry Prize

Entries for the 2017 Australian Catholic University (ACU) Prize for Poetry are open until July 3, with a $10,000 first prize for poetry with the theme “Joy”. See: acu.edu419论坛/poetry-prize. What’s on

April 22: Canberra author Courtney Carr will be signing copies of her debut science fiction horror novel Cosmic Decay: Contamination at Paperchain Manuka at 11am.

April 24: Queanbeyan writer Omar Musa will launch his third book of poetry, Millefiori, at Smith’s Alternative at 7pm. Tickets $10. smithsalternative南京夜网.

April 23: In Writing While Female at Muse Canberra, some Canberra writers of life explore what it means to write as a woman. Featuring Jessica Friedmann, Lisa Fuller, Zoya Patel and Melinda Smith. Tickets $10 includes a drink.Bookings: musecanberra南京夜网419论坛/events/.

April 26: Dympha by Judith Armstrong tells the story of the wife of historian Manning Clark. Armstrong will discuss her book in the National Library Conference Room at 6pm. Admission free. Nla.gov419论坛.

April 27: The Mysterious Mr Jacob: Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy author John Zubrzycki will talk about his latest book at Asia Bookroom, Lawry Place, Macquarie (adjacent to the Jamison Centre) at 6pm. RSVP to 62515191. Entry by gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. See: AsiaBookroom南京夜网.

April, 27: At 6.15pm for 7pm at the University House Common Room. Meet the Chef dinner with Valli Little who will be in conversation with Alex Sloan on Little’s new book My Kind of Food. $85 per person for pre-dinner canapes, three course dinner with wines from Mount Majura Vineyard. Bookings at: http://unihouse.anu.edu419论坛/events/meet-the-chef-dinner-with-valli-little/

April 27: At 7 for 7pm, John Foulcher, Melinda Smith, and Hazel Hall are reading at Manning Clark House. $10.00 entry at door, wine and nibbles served. Contact 0478640169 for more information.

April 30: At Muse Canberra, in Question Time:Katy Gallagher find out if and how Katy Gallagher, the person is different from Senator Katy Gallagher, federal politician. Tickets $10 includes a drink.Bookings: musecanberra南京夜网419论坛/events/.

May 4: In the lunchtime event The Long Table, Meg and Tom Keneally’s The Unmourned will be launched at Muse Canberra at noon. Tickets $75 includes 90-minute two-course lunch and a copy of the book. musecanberra南京夜网419论坛.

May 6: At 2pm at the National Archives of Australia, Professor Joan Beaumont’s book Moving Beyond 1915 Remembrance will be launched for Peace Works! at the National Archives of Australia, Queen Victoria Terrace. There will be displays and events and free refreshments from 10am to 4pm..

May 6: Come for afternoon tea with Jenevieve Chang, author of The Good Girl of Chinatown: From suburban Sydney to Shanghai Show Girl at 2pm at Asia Bookroom, Lawry Place, Macquarie (adjacent to Jamison) RSVP to 62515191. Entry by gold coin donation to the Australian Childhood Foundation. See:AsiaBookroom南京夜网

May 8: At 6.30pm, Manning Clark Lecture Theatre 2, ANU, in an ANU/The Canberra Times meet the author event, xo-founder and creative director of the Mama Mia Women’s Network, Mia Freedman, will be in conversation with Genevieve Jacobs on Freedman’s new book: Work, Strife, Balance. Free event. Bookings at anu.edu419论坛/events or 6125 4144. Pre-book signings at 6pm.

May 10: The next Poetry at the House reading is at University House at 7.30 pm. It will feature Louise Nicholas (from Adelaide), Paul Cliff (from Canberra) and Victoria McGrath (from Yass). Admission: $10 waged, $5 unwaged. RSVP: [email protected]论坛.

May 11: Still touching hearts: an evening with May Gibbs for the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature. Includes a presentation of original artwork to the Centre by Jane Brummitt, co-author of May Gibbs More than a Fairy Tale. 5.30-7pm at ALIA House, 9-11 Napier Close Deakin. $15 ($12 for CBCA members). RSVP by May 9: [email protected]南京夜网.

May 13: Plotting Your Novel with Ian McHugh is a writing workshop from 10am to 4pm in the E-Block Seminar Room, Gorman Arts Centre. Cost: $145 members, $210 non-members (includes 12-month membership). Concession rates available. Bookings: bit.ly/ianmchugh.

May 29: At 6pm at the Copland Lecture Theatre, ANU in an ANU/ Canberra Times meet the author event, Robert Dessaix will be in conversation with Professor Nicholas Brown on Dessaix’s new book, The Pleasures of Leisure. Free event. Bookings at anu.edu419论坛/events or 6125 4144. Pre-book signings at 5:30 PM .

May 30: At 6.30pm in the Copland Lecture Theatre, ANU in an ANU/Canberra Times meet the author. Chloe Shorten will be in conversation with Anna-Maria Arabia on Shorten’s new book, Take Heart: A Story for Modern Stepfamilies. Free event. Bookings at anu.edu419论坛/events or 6125 4144. Pre-book signings at 6pm.

* Contributions to Litbits are welcome. Please email [email protected]南京夜网419论坛 by COB on the Monday prior to publication. Publication is not guaranteed.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.