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How Atlassian boss Mike Cannon-Brookes pays zero tax for his billion-dollar company in Australia

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has accused tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes of ‘ripping off the Australian taxpayer’ to help fund his relentless climate change and woke campaigns.   

Mr Cannon-Brookes has amassed a fortune of $20billion, largely reaped from selling shares in Atlassian, the task management software company he co-founded.

Despite generating around $1billion in revenue from its Australian operations the firm pays no local company tax, according to the Australian Financial Review. 

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, here seen with wife Annie, is a corporate climate change crusader

Mr Cannon-Brookes uses his Twitter account to preach a vision of the 'greener path ahead' for Australia

Mr Cannon-Brookes uses his Twitter account to preach a vision of the ‘greener path ahead’ for Australia

One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson said Australia needed urgent tax reform to make sure companies such as Atlassian stopped ‘ripping off’ the taxpayer. 

‘I have often said we need to undertake significant tax reform to ensure big resource and tech companies pay their fair share of tax in Australia,’ Senator Hanson said.

‘This is especially the case with foreign-owned multinationals, however some Australian companies also seem to get away with paying little to no tax. 

‘For example, Woodside made about $43billion in revenue from 2014-19 but paid only $1.2billion in tax. Atlassian appears to be another example.

‘Until we get the tax reform we need, reform I have been advocating for years, Australians will be continually ripped off by these companies.’ 

Despite Mr Cannon-Brookes and co-founder Scott Farquhar both coming from Sydney, Atlassian is listed on the US tech share market NASDAQ and is incorporated in London.

This, along with practices such as claiming credits for research and development, means Atlassian doesn’t pay company tax in Australia.

A view of main Fairwater household, which is part of a sprawling Sydney harbourside estate Mr Brookes Cannon bought in 2019

A view of main Fairwater household, which is part of a sprawling Sydney harbourside estate Mr Brookes Cannon bought in 2019

DMA is not suggesting Atlassian and MCB do not comply with their Australian tax obligations. 

Mr Cannon-Brookes told the Sydney Morning Herald that this complex arrangement, which allows tax-miminisation, was actually straightforward.

‘We are pretty simple at Atlassian – we follow all of the tax rules in all of the geographies we operate in,’ Mr Cannon-Brookes said. 

‘We are a large global business now and it is incredibly complicated.’

In the same interview, Mr Cannon-Brookes said Atlassian spent 37 per cent of its revenue on research and development but then appeared to contradict that.

‘We make no pretence that we spend a huge amount on research and development,’ he said. 

Mr Cannon Brookes also owns $90million property and land in the Southern Highlands, 120km south of Sydney, including Rosehill Farm, seen here

Mr Cannon Brookes also owns $90million property and land in the Southern Highlands, 120km south of Sydney, including Rosehill Farm, seen here

How Atlassian boss Mike Cannon-Brookes pays zero tax for his billion-dollar company in Australia

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has called for reform measures to ensure all companies pay ‘an appropriate amount of tax’

Mr Cannon-Brookes promotes Atlassian, which is Australia’s most successful tech company with a market value of around $53billion, as a champion of ‘giving back’.

‘It’s no secret that Atlassian has a pretty deep belief as a company in a responsibility to give back to stand up for what is right and to lead in a quality way through our actions and obviously a long history of doing that,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Senator Hanson argued if companies such as Atlassian ‘gave back’ to the tax man it would go a long way to tackling Australia’s record budget deficit, which in October grew to an estimated $892.3billion.

‘Appropriate tax reform will go a long way towards reducing future Budget deficits, if not in fact creating surpluses down the road,’ Senator Hanson said. 

Instead Mr Cannon-Brookes ploughs money into a relentless war against coal and gas. 

Mr Cannon-Brookes launched a takeover bid of energy giant AGL in May with the stated purpose of shutting down its coal and gas operations.

While the bid was unsuccessful, he retains a significant holding in the company and is campaigning to install four board members who more closely align with his views.       

‘We have to move faster onto renewables – which, yes, is renewables … and transmission,’ Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

‘That’s not a particularly complicated equation as to what we need. It’s just a question of how quickly can we roll it out.’

Scott Farquhar, here seen with partner Kim Jackson, now lives next-door to his Atlassian co-founder

Scott Farquhar, here seen with partner Kim Jackson, now lives next-door to his Atlassian co-founder

Major energy retailers say replacing coal and gas with renewable energy is the major reason power prices are sky-rocketing.

‘Next year, using the current market prices, tariffs are going up a minimum 35 per cent,’ Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery told an energy conference in October.

‘It’s horrendous, it’s unpalatable. We don’t want energy consumers getting their power bills and setting fire to them.’

In September, reports by regulators the Energy Security Board and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) both pointed at switching to renewables as a major reason for power price surges.

Mike Cannon-Brookes and his wife Annie attend a media and technology conference in the US state of Idaho in 2019

Mike Cannon-Brookes and his wife Annie attend a media and technology conference in the US state of Idaho in 2019 

Mike Cannon-Brookes frequently campaigns for government to step in to help electrify households

Mike Cannon-Brookes frequently campaigns for government to step in to help electrify households

Higher electricity prices are unlikely to unduly worry Mr Cannon-Brookes even though he does have multiple rooms to light and heat.

In 2017 he acquired the heritage-listed Sydney mansion Fairwater, which had been dubbed Australia’s ‘most covetable’ property for the eye-watering sum of $100million.

The 1.12 hectare estate is Sydney’s largest privately held harbourside property and has extensive gardens, a main dwelling plus two other houses as well as tennis courts and a large swimming pool, perhaps heated.

Moving into the mansion meant the Atlassian co-founders are neighbours, with Mr Farquar purchasing the next-door property, named Elaine, for $71million in 2017, which he reportedly paid for in cash.

Despite their elite, walled surrounds, the pair vowed to mix with ordinary commuters by catching public transport to work. 

It is not known if Mr Cannon-Brookes catches NSW state rail to visit his extensive land holdings.

In March his family bought the $8million 57-hectare Malemy property in the NSW Southern Highlands, which increased their holdings in the area to over 1000hectares, valued at $90million.     

Despite his company being notably absent when it comes to chipping in for the federal budget, Mr Cannon- Brookes has many ideas on how to spend lots of tax money.

In a lengthy twitter thread directed at former treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the eve of the last May budget,  Mr Cannon-Brookes proposed a huge spending spree.

Mike Cannon-Brookes is a big believer in eating bugs, saying they are a huge part of a 'sustainable future'

Mike Cannon-Brookes is a big believer in eating bugs, saying they are a huge part of a ‘sustainable future’

Nicole Kidman revealed in 2018 that her 'hidden talent' was eating insects - a habit supported by Mike Cannon-Brookes

Nicole Kidman revealed in 2018 that her ‘hidden talent’ was eating insects – a habit supported by Mike Cannon-Brookes

He wanted the Commonwealth to ‘help Aussies electrify their homes’ by ‘switching your car & appliances (heating/water/cooking etc) from petrol & gas’.

‘Let’s see more $$ invested in: – education & training for in-demand tradies – national campaign on benefits of electrifying – modified Home Builder scheme to help homeowners reduce emissions w subsidies for electrification – extend solar STC program to batteries & beyond,’ he tweeted.

There was also shopping list of regulations and subsidies to be lavished on electric vehicles.   

‘Some ideas for EVs: – a vehicle efficiency standard – we are dead last today! – offer interest free loans, remove taxes & duties – provide incentives for fleets to adopt EVs – start with the govt fleet! – remove diesel fuel rebates,’ he tweeted. 

The billionaire combines his advocacy for electric vehicles with the simple suburban joys of a cheap and hearty meal out

The billionaire combines his advocacy for electric vehicles with the simple suburban joys of a cheap and hearty meal out

Perhaps building batteries is a good idea because it has been revealed that the cost of replacing an electric vehicle battery can be more than half the amount of the car.

The Lexus UX electric SUV but sold for $82,500, but replacing its battery will cost an astonishing $43,476, the company revealed.

There is a 10-year battery warranty for the Lexus but most electric vehicles only have have five-year ones, although the battery costs vary according to the make. 

On social media, Mr Brookes-Cannon frequently broadcasts his use of electric vehicles, which he combines with love of the simple suburban pleasures such as getting a schnitzel at a licenced RSL-style club.

‘Kudos to the Moss Vale Services Club for having an double EV charger in the car park,’ he tweeted recently.

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar chat onstage overshadowed by the logo for their $53billion software company Atlassian

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar chat onstage overshadowed by the logo for their $53billion software company Atlassian

‘Charging my car while getting a schnitzel at the RSL with the kids felt like a new future for Australia… one that was nicely connected with our past.’

Presumably the schnitzel was battered in normal wheat-based flour but if Mr Cannon-Brookes gets his way this will give way to ground up insects, which he says are a ‘huge part’ of our sustainable future. 

‘I’m a big fan of cricket flour and insect eating in general,’ he tweeted in 2018.

‘The logic totally stacks up. (Low planet footprint, high protein, sustainable etc) Always looking for interesting opportunities in that space!’

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