Aged care providers avoiding tax while taking handouts

The largest six private aged care providers – BUPA, Opal, Regis, Estia, Japara and Allity – are using trusts and offshore tax havens to obscure profits and avoid paying tax, according to a recent report commissioned by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

Allity has paid no tax in the past two years. Yet the major aged care providers continue to demand more handouts.

The report, published by the Tax Justice Network, noted that the largest six companies combined “received over $2.17 billion in government subsidies”, which represented 72 percent of total revenues. 

BUPA made $663 million in Australia last year, 70 percent of which came from government. 

Aged care is a profitable business. A recent survey by Bentleys Chartered Accountants revealed the average profit made from each resident in aged care in 2015 was $6,278. Management is also well rewarded – BUPA’s CEO was paid more than $3 million, and the CEO of Regis received $1 million.

“The for-profit side of the industry had plenty of money … the money is being spent, but not on care”, Annie Butler, acting federal secretary of the nurses’ union, commented in a Sydney Morning Herald article. 

“They buy shiny paintings, new buildings, and pay big management salaries, but ... they impose restrictions on goods like continence pads.” 

The priorities of these companies are not their residents. Research published in the journal Nutrition and Dietetics found that malnutrition affects “at least one in two residents in Australian residential aged care facilities”. The average amount spent on food for a resident is only $6.08 per day – a lot less than is spent in the US, the UK or Canada.

The big aged care providers’ focus on profit, including tax minimisation and demands for more government subsidies, means poor quality of life for those in their care. Not only that, but their tax avoidance contributes to public health, housing, education and transport being starved of necessary funding.