High Court throws out mining tax challenge

Fortescue’s Andrew Forrest has lost his High Court challenge against the mining tax.

The tax applies to profits for coal and iron ore miners making more than $75 million a year in annual profit.

Forrest first announced plans to take the mining tax to court in November 2012 on the ground that it is ‘unconstitutional'.

Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group argued that the tax discriminated between states and interfered with the rights of states to control their own resources.

However the challenge was unanimously dismissed by the High Court, The Age reported.

''The treatment of state mining royalties by the MRRT Act . . . did not discriminate between states and that the Acts did not give preference to one state over another,'' the court ruled.

The tax only raised $126 million in its first six months: a figure well below the full-year forecast of $2 billion.

In announcing the decreased revenue figure former Treasurer Wayne Swan blamed lower commodity prices, however others say loopholes in the tax allows major miners to dodge full payments.

The 2012 financial reports of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto showed tax credits worth $644 million and more than $1.1 billion.

Earlier this year The Greens called for the closure of loopholes which allow mining companies to deduct the market value of existing assets over many years instead of subtracting the book value over five years.

Proposed changes include increasing the tax rate to 40%, cutting Commonwealth refunds of state royalty increases and including other minerals as part of the tax.

Leading economist Ross Garnaut said the mining tax is flawed and may not raise any revenue if left as is.

Garnaut blamed state government royalties and the ability of larger miners to lower their mining tax exposure by citing the market value of existing mines as partly responsible for the low tax rate.

However others say the industry is taxed enough.

Minerals Council of Australia chief, Mitch Hooke, wants taxes on mining companies left as is in order for the industry to remain internationally competitive.

“Full crediting of royalties is a key feature of the MRRT's design, one that ensures double taxation is avoided and that delivers a measure of stability and predictability to the overall tax burden on coal and iron ore projects, which are already at the upper end of global mining tax rates,” Hooke said.

“Even before the introduction of the MRRT, coal and iron ore were among the highest taxed industries in Australia based on the two main fiscal instruments used to collect mineral resource revenues – State and Territory royalties and Commonwealth company income tax.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the Coalition would scrap the mining tax if it wins the September election.

''The mining tax will be gone as of July 1 next year if you vote for the Coalition,'' he said.

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