Monthly Archives: January 2017

Hunter coal mines to Chinese for $3.2 billion


With the acquisition, Yancoal will now own some of the largest single coal mines in Australia, with a suite of mines in NSW and Queensland. It is yet to clarify how it will fund the purchase, although a share issue is expected to be launched in the June quarter.

The Chinese-controlled company will more than double in size, producing more than 42 million tonnes of coal in Australia.

News of the sale triggered a surge in Rio shares in London trading overnight, rallyig by more than 3 per cent.

Rio is to receive an immediate $US1.95 ($2.6) billion, in cash, with the remaining $US500 ($660) million paid in annual $US100 ($132) million instalments.

The sale of Rio’s Coal & Allied unit represents the culmination of an extensive assessment of all strategic options for these assets, the Anglo-Australian miner said, and it comes after “a comprehensive market testing and price discovery process” along with negotiations with a number of potential buyers.

The mines being sold to Yancoal produced 25.9 million tonnes of thermal and semi-soft coking coal in 2016 of which Rio’s share was 17.1 million tonnes. The net assets subject to this sale agreement had earnings before tax of $US102 million in the 2015, and a gross asset value attributable to them of $US1.895 billion as at June 2016.

Yancoal Australia is 78 per cent owned by Yanzhou Coal Mining Co of Hong Kong, which is in turn controlled by an arm of the Chinese government. Yancoal sells around 25 million tonnes of coal annually produced at its Australian mines.

The deal is subject to state and federal government scrutiny, Rio said.

Following settlement, Yancoal is to a pay royalties of $US2 a tonne as long as the thermal coal price is over $US75 a tonne.

Yancoal’s offshore parent said it will pump $US1 billion of additional equity into its Australian arm while also looking for other investors to take up shares in any fund raising.

Belgian Philhellene warms up 7,000 children and 40 schools in northern Greece


‘This is a small token of my appreciation towards Greece’ – Jimmy Jamar

Through his charity initiative ‘Fuel for Schools’, Goodwill Ambassador Jimmy Jamar, who is also the head of the European Commission Representation in Belgium, has managed to raise €35,278 in order to heat 40 schools and 7,000 students in northern Greece.

It all started back in 2012 when, as a sign of solidarity and friendship towards the Greek people, a group of Belgian and European citizens living in Brussels launched a cultural event by the name of 12 Hours for Greece. Besides promoting Greek culture and gastronomy, the aim of the initiative, which is run entirely by volunteers, is to raise money and support Greek associations operating within the fields of health and education.

In previous years, the events have enticed thousands of people and have hosted well-respected Greek and Belgian artists such as Lavrentis Machairitsas, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Aleka Kanellidou, Panos Mouzourakis, Georges Corraface and Salvatore Adamo, in an attempt to raise funds and assist the Make-a-Wish Foundation, To Hamogelo tou Paidiou (The Smile of a Child), Médecins sans Frontières, ELEPAP (Greek Association for Handicapped Children) and the International Foundation for Greece.

Jimmy Jamar studied law and international relations in Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and the United States. He joined the European Commission in 1994 and, besides being the head of the commission representation in Belgium, he is also a real philanthropist and a true Philhellene.

In an interview with Neos Kosmos, Jamar talks about his 12 Hours for Greece initiative, his charity organisation and his endless love affair with Greece, which counts back to 1969 when the head commissioner first set foot in Katakolon in the Peloponnese.

What inspired you to go ahead and set up an initiative that helps Greek people?
It all started in the winter of 2011-2012, at the peak of the crisis. I decided that as a friend of Greece I had to do something and help in any way I could. I was posted in the Netherlands at the time and on my return, in February 2011, I had exactly 10 weeks to organise my first 12 Hours for Greece.

During those 10 weeks, I founded a charity organisation, booked a theatre, set up a 12-hour program with readings and dances and put together a fabulous music concert. I hardly slept during that period but the outcome was a great success that attracted lots of media attention and was received extremely well by thousands of people.

How did this year’s fundraising go and are you pleased with the outcome?
On 22 October we organised the fifth consecutive 12 Hours for Greece event and I can safely say that the spirit is evident more than ever. We collected just over €35,000, which enables us to heat 40 schools and subsequently keep more than 7,000 children and their teachers warm during the winter months. I just came back from my first tour of northern Greece, between Alexandroupoli and Kavala, where we delivered fuel to eight of these schools. I will be back again in January, to visit another eight schools on the island of Samothraki and several others.

How long did it take you to collect the funds and attract sponsorships?
I work on this project all year round. In the first part of the year, I try to identify potential sponsors and spend a lot of time with them in order to show them what it is that we do. I also visit Belgian schools in an attempt to establish connections with schools in northern Greece.

Then I start planning for the concert, which is usually pencilled in for October. I select the performing artists, organise all bookings and travel arrangements and, together with a small organising committee we schedule meetings with Greek restaurant owners to encourage them to offer meals to people that need it most. Once we collect the funds from the concert, together with the International Foundation for Greece, we select the schools that will receive our assistance and start deliveries in December.

How hard was it to collect the funds and encourage people to donate towards this cause?
The project is now well known among the Greek community in Brussels, but of course, it’s always difficult to collect money. Some people think the crisis is over just because Greece doesn’t feature in the front pages of the world media any more. This perception is entirely incorrect.

I always invite those people to come with me and visit the schools so that they can see for themselves that the situation remains rather dramatic. There are hundreds of schools that struggle to purchase fuel. I saw the empty tanks.

How did the Greeks of Belgium welcome the initiative?
Brussels has a large and very well-organised Greek community of around 20,000 people. People here and in Greece are well aware of our initiative, therefore we receive a tremendous amount of support from the Greeks living in Belgium, as well as from many Belgians and foreigners living in Brussels.

How many schools did you visit in Greece and what was the reaction of the Greek people?
I initially organised a press conference in Athens on 12 December and the majority of the artists that performed in the Brussels’ concert on 22 October (Lavrentis Machairitsas, Vassilis Lekkas, Alexandra Gravas, Petros Bouras) attended. That’s always a very emotional and passionate moment for everyone. The artists describe their experiences from Brussels, their reasons for participating in the initiative and the feelings they brought back home from their time in Belgium.

Then, together with the president of the International Foundation for Greece, Aspasia Leventis, we flew to Alexandroupoli where we started fuel deliveries.

Overall, we travelled 400 kilometres in one day, going through from Alexandroupoli to Kavala and distributing fuel to eight schools. So far we have visited one school in Avanta (near Alexandroupoli), three schools at Stavroupoli near Xanthi, two in Paranesti (between Xanthi and Drama) and two in Nevrokopi (just south of the Bulgarian border).

I could never even attempt to describe and one could never fathom the emotions and reactions we experience at every school that we visit. Meeting with the school principals, the teachers, the students and their parents is such an amazing and moving experience that it fuels the soul with more energy to get back on the road and collect more funds for those people who need it the most.

You have written two books on Greece. You have set up a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to assist the country in a time of turmoil, you own a house in Folegandros and you are always very complimentary towards our country. It seems like you have an endless love affair with Greece. Is that true?
I love Greece. I have always loved this country ever since I set foot in the harbour of Katakolon in the spring of 1969. It is a relationship that has been building up over all these years. My project for the schools is just a small token of appreciation for everything that Greece has given me and my wife, who is Greek, throughout the years. We both visit Greece as much as we can and stay at our little house in Folegandros, a beautiful little island in the Aegean.
The truth of it is, my love for Greece first started 45 years ago, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Greek Orthodox church to be sued after woman slips on wet leaf


The 70-year-old is claiming damages, including the cost of past and future medical expenses

Springvale’s St Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church is being sued based on claims by a 70-year-old parishioner that she slipped on a wet leaf at the premises.

According to a report by the Herald Sun, Penelope Liakopoulos said that the church was negligent in its failure to remove the leaf from the foyer of the premises, or should at least have warned her over its presence.

In the statement that was lodged with the Country Court, Ms Liakopoulos claimed that as a result of the incident she fractured her right wrist.

Described as a traumatic experience, she was required to undergo surgery and has continued to endure aftereffects such as ongoing pain and restricted movement and is claiming damages, including past and future medical expenses.

Ms Liakopoulos says the church has a duty of care to parishioners to avoid exposing them to such potential risks, and that they failed to do so.

She says the church should have an anti-slip coating on the floor of the building’s entrance, and have a system in place for inspecting floors “for slip hazards such as the leaf”, or preventing them from entering the premises.

In an interview with Neos Kosmos, St Athanasios parish priest Father Efstathios Ladas said he did not know exactly what had happened, but added that Ms Liakopoulos is clearly seeking compensation through her allegations.

Father Ladas says that the church’s solicitor and insurance company are currently handling the matter.

What does the ‘automatic exchange of financial account information’ between Australia and Greece mean?


Tony Anamourlis delves into the agreement’s impact on dual citizens

With increasing fiscal leakage due to tax evasion and tax avoidance, the OECD and its member states which includes Australia and Greece continues to focus comprehensively on global strategies to reduce the incidence of tax evasion and tax avoidance and restore government revenue by preventing fiscal leakage. In particular, the OECD’s work in developing the Global Forum on Tax Transparency and Automatic Exchange of Information, in conjunction with their work on base erosion and profit shifting, reflects a global effort to bring the rules of international tax into the 21st century.

In these circumstances, a wealth of work has been advanced in recent times by the OECD and its member states. In the context of Greece, a recent convention was signed which included the signatories of Greece and Australia relating to the Mutual Administrative Assistance program in Tax Matters, which enables both of these countries to work more closely together to combat tax evasion and or tax avoidance.

In addition, Greece has now advanced its tax protocols with the assistance of the OECD by entering into a Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information to enable both Greece and Australia and other tax jurisdictions to combat tax evasion and or tax avoidance.

What changes?
Greece signed the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters on 22 February 2012. This is a multilateral agreement that was established jointly by the Council of Europe and the OECD and is open for signatures to all countries. The Convention promotes international co-operation in the assessment and collection of taxes.

As taxpayers increasingly function on a global basis, tax authorities are moving from bilateral to multilateral co-operation and from exchange of information on request to more effective forms of collaboration. The Convention is an effective and hands-on instrument to help tax authorities in their everyday work.
At a time when Greece was looking to shore up its economy with other European countries and other participants, the Convention allows Greece to work more closely with other countries, such as Australia to combat tax avoidance and evasion.

So far signatories to the Convention are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In these circumstances, to further attack offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance, Greece’ parliament has implemented Greek legislation relating to the automatic exchange of financial account information which will further strengthen its ties between the Australian and Greek governments and other competent tax jurisdictions worldwide.

Accordingly, in order for Greece to bring its tax rules in line with OECD standards, Greece’s legislators have recently implemented Greek legislation to incorporate the OECD’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement relating to the automatic exchange of financial information.

What this means for non-residents living outside of Greece
Law 4428/2016 incorporates into the Greek legislation the OECD Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (‘the Agreement’) on the automatic exchange of financial account information.

The automatic exchange of information constructed within the body of the agreement means that the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) is the single global standard for the collection, reporting and exchange of financial account information on foreign tax residents. For example, banks and other financial institutions will collect and report to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) financial account information on non-residents.

The ATO will exchange this information with the participating foreign tax authorities of those non-residents in Greece. In parallel, the ATO will receive financial account information on Australian residents from other countries’ tax authorities, such as Greece. This will aid to ensure that Australian residents and Australian non-resident Greeks with financial accounts in other countries are complying with Australian tax laws and with other international tax laws and act as a deterrent to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Generally, the CRS requires financial institutions in each CRS contributing country including Greece and Australia to request the tax residency status of their taxpayers and provide information to their local tax authority about any accounts held by tax residents of other countries. The CRS describes the information that will be exchanged, the different types of accounts and account holders, the financial institutions that will be required to report, and procedures that financial institutions must monitor to identify reportable accounts.

The CRS applies to most financial accounts held by individuals and entities, including bank accounts, both in Australia and in Greece. After June 30, 2017, taxpayers opening accounts with an Australian financial institution generally will be required to provide their tax residency status and tax file number for all countries in which they are resident for tax purposes. In addition, applications for accounts held by certain entities may require disclosure of the entity’s directors and shareholders who are tax residents of countries other than Australia.

If, for example, an Australian resident has a reportable financial account in another country, such as in Greece, that has agreed to exchange information with Australia, the financial institution in that country will be required to report information to their local tax authority, which will then exchange that information with the ATO.

If the account is reportable, the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) requires financial institutions to provide specific information to the local tax authority (e.g. Greece’s tax department or to the Australian Tax Office).

Information that Greece and Australia can request via automatic of exchange of information is as follows:
– Account holder’s name
– Address
– Date of birth (for individuals)
– Tax file number or their identification number (if applicable)
– Country (countries) of tax residence
– Account number
– Account balances or the closure of the account
– Amount of interest, dividends, gross proceeds and other payments made or credited to the account (if applicable)
– Other countries partaking in the CRS may require additional information to be reported to their local tax authorities (such as the account holder’s place of birth)

In total, 101 countries/jurisdictions have been committed to implement the CRS (as per the latest information of the OECD on 26 July 2016). In particular, 53 (including Greece) will implement the first automatic exchange of information in the year 2017 (2016 income), while 31 counties in the year 2018 (2017 income).

The remaining 17 countries have already committed on the automatic exchange of information, however, they have not signed yet the Agreement. The present law is effective as of 1 January 2016. For the calendar year 2016, the automatic exchange of information shall be effected up to 30 September 2017.

However, a ministerial decision will be issued determining a list of the countries/jurisdictions with which Greece intends to automatically exchange information by virtue of the Agreement, which will no doubt also include Australia. Likewise, the dates of entry into force of the Agreement on bilateral basis will be determined by ministerial decisions.

Further implementations of automatic exchange of information standards − country by country reporting between Greece and Australia
Further to the OECD’s Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (‘the Agreement’) on the automatic exchange of financial account information, we will also see Greece enter into another phase of further strengthening their tax system by implementing the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Country by Country Reporting standards with other tax jurisdictions, including Australia.

According to the OECD release, the 31 countries signing the MCAA are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

What this means for Australia, Greece and other participating countries is that through country-by-country reporting, tax administrations are able to access information where a company operates and is able to get aggregate information annually, starting with the 2016 accounts, relating to the global allocation of income and taxes paid, together with other indicators of the location of economic movement within the multinational enterprise. It will also cover information about which entities do business in a specific tax jurisdiction and the business activities each entity participates in.

The information will be collected by the country of residence of the multinational group, and will then result in an exchange of information supported by such agreements. The first exchanges will commence in 2017/2018 concerning the 2016 financial year. However, in the context of Greece, ministerial decisions determining the list of countries/jurisdictions with which Greece intends to automatically exchange information by virtue of the Agreements on a country by country basis, which most likely will include Australia as one of its participants, will be outlined in 2017 when Greece’ parliament resumes.

In these circumstances, taxpayers who have become aware that their tax affairs are not compliant either need to seek proper financial and legal advice or will need to make a voluntary disclosure. There is absolutely no doubt that their level of tax non-compliance will eventually be detected and if so, they run a real risk of being prosecuted and even incarcerated for substantial periods of time depending upon the nature of the offences committed.

Accordingly, what the ATO is targeting, among other things, is conspicuous consumption, low salaries, substantial assets, glamorous cars, luxurious holidays, expensive homes, children at elite private schools and significant business and other overseas dealings.

In closing, defrauding the Commonwealth of its revenue is a very serious crime in Australia and most other parts of the world and attracts significant terms of imprisonment, as well as substantial penalties. The ATO has plenty of time and resources to catch out taxpayers who defraud the Commonwealth of its revenue and the longer they delay, the greater the contribution the taxpayer(s) will have to make to the revenue, when they are caught.

* Tony Anamourlis is an international tax lawyer and tax academic.