Rio Tinto Tax Evasion Allegations Shouldn’t Scare Canadian Firms – by Peter Menyasz (Bloomberg News – May 7, 2018)

Companies shouldn’t be afraid to conduct legal tax planning, despite tax evasion allegations against a Canadian Rio Tinto subsidiary, practitioners said.

Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. allegedly avoided as much as $470 million in taxes on its copper and gold mine in Mongolia, according to a watchdog group. But the company insists it is in compliance with Canadian law.

The discrepancy highlights the complex nature of interpreting tax law, which varies widely across countries, practitioners said. And tax avoidance is a major focus for countries, particularly as they look at how to treat multinational tech firms.

“You can’t dodge a tax that the statute doesn’t require you to pay,” Toronto tax lawyer Steve Suarez, who has previously represented Turquoise Hill and Rio Tinto, said May 2. “But there are people out there who are willing to apply the tax avoidance label to companies that are following the rules.”

The Canada Revenue Agency can’t indicate whether it is investigating the allegations against Turquoise Hill, agency spokesman Etienne Biram said May 2. But the government’s investment of nearly C$1 billion ($777 million) to address aggressive tax avoidance and evasion have enabled it to better identify cases and apply sanctions, Biram told Bloomberg Tax.

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