The Australian government has refused to reveal mining tax earnings paid by individual mining companies and said that doing so would break the law.
The opposition has demanded transparency over tax earnings after it was revealed by The Australian newspaper that the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT), introduced by Labour in July 2012, has failed to raise any revenue.
But Finance Minister Penny Wong said that the Tax Office has advised the government not to disclose the figures of individual taxpayers as it may violate Commonwealth privacy provisions.
Under the privacy rules of the Taxation Administration Act, disclosure is liable to a two-year jail term.
Resources giants say they will escape paying the mining tax for the second quarter in a row.
The Australian reports BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Xstrata, and Fortescue Metals Group will not be liable for mining tax payments when the deadline rolls in next week.
This indicated that the MRRT has raised no money since taking effect.
In the 2012-13 budget, the government forecast that MRRT would raise $3bn, but this figure was later brought down to $2bn.
When the government announced the MRRT deal, it predicted that the tax would raise $22.5bn over the first four years of its implementation.
Analysts now fear that the tax, currently applied to coal and iron miners, could be expanded to other commodities.
Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said Senator Penelope Wong, the Commonwealth Minister for Finance and Deregulation, should be able to indicate how much money the MRRT has made without breaching the privacy of individual companies.
"She wasn’t being asked about individual taxpayers, she was being asked about whether the mining tax was raising a dollar – a single dollar," Hockey told 2GB radio in Sydney.
"Now she has to answer those questions, but she won’t."
Image: The Australian Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Joseph Fox.