A specialist reference group has been formed by the federal government to address methods multinational corporations are using to minimise their tax bills in Australia.

The group made up of business representatives, tax professionals, academics and the community sector, is the first step in Treasury's examination of multinational tax minimisation strategies and its risks to the sustainability of Australia's corporate tax base.

Reports by Fairfax has suggested that companies like Apple, eBay and Starbucks are some of these multinational corporations who are using tax havens to reduce their tax.

"We don't want to see a future where hard-working Australian families and businesses have to pay disproportionately high taxes because multinational corporations are not pulling their weight,” Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said.

"We need to make sure that we are doing everything possible through our domestic laws to keep up with the changing nature of global commerce in the information age.

"More importantly, Governments all around the world need to re-examine many of the key rules of international taxation, which are not keeping up with the changing business models and tax planning arrangements of many multinational companies."

The panel will be led by Revenue Group head Rob Heferen who will prepare a paper for government on the topic.

Others appointed to the group include: Michael Bersten of PwC, former commissioner of taxation Michael D'Ascenzo, Frank Drenth of Corporate Tax Association of Australia, Oxfam Australia’s Serena Lillywhite, Ross Lyons from Rio Tinto, ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons, Deloitte’s Peter Madden, Jason Sharman from Griffith University, Tony Stolarek from Ernest & Young, Niv Tadmore from Clayton Utz, The Melbourne Law Masters senior fellow Greg Smith, Brian Wilson from Foreign Investment Review Board and Mark Zirnsak from Uniting Church.

The first of several meetings of the reference group will be in February. The Government will release the Treasury scoping paper for public consultation in mid 2013.