Business owners warm to lowering GST threshold on overseas shopping

Retailers claim the GST regime puts them at an unfair disadvantage competing against foreign sellers.
MATT CARDY/GETTY IMAGES

Retailers claim the GST regime puts them at an unfair disadvantage competing against foreign sellers.

Business owners have warmed to the idea of charging GST on more overseas internet shopping purchases.

A survey of more than 1000 owners of small businesses found 36 per cent would vote for a reduction in the Customs threshold under which most purchases worth less than $400 can be imported tax-free.

Thirty-four per cent were opposed.

Accounting firm MYOB, which carried out the research, said that represented a big shift from a year ago when only a quarter of business owners it questioned supported the change.

But views were divided by people's age, with younger business owners much more likely to be opposed to the so-called "Amazon tax".

The finding comes as ministers prepare to consider a paper produced by Customs that canvasses how GST could be charged on more physical imports. The paper, which was ordered in August, has yet to be made public.

Revenue Minister Todd Clay has previously confirmed the Government's intention to levy GST on all imported digital products and services, such as music, television and game downloads and subscriptions.

However, he has said any move to close the GST loophole on imported goods would be more complicated.  

The Australian government may lead international efforts to ensure GST is levied on all imports, after Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced in August that it would require foreign sellers to collect GST on sales of both goods and services to Australians from July 2017.

However, that would only be if their sales into Australia were above the A$75,000 (NZ$79.000) annual threshold above which Australian business are required to collect GST on their domestic sales.

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MYOB small business manager James Scollay said business owners were starting to realise that lowering the GST import threshold could help "level the playing field for local small and medium-sized businesses".

"We believe, on balance, a universally applied GST system will be positive for local businesses and the broader economy," he said.

 - Stuff

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