Australian Taxation Office says low value GST collection doing better than expected

Over 1,000 companies have signed up for the collection of GST on imported items worth less than AU$1,000.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has said the collection of GST by vendors on imported items worth less than AU$1,000 is doing well.

The laws, which came into effect on July 1 last year, require overseas retailers selling goods into Australia to collect GST on items under AU$1,000 if turnover of more than AU$75,000 is derived from sales within Australia.

It was expected that the laws would raise AU$300 million over three years from over 3,000 vendors who the government believed would voluntarily register with the ATO.

Responding to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, the ATO said it had 1,070 vendors in its simplified reported system, and over 50 in its full system.

"Revenue for the first quarter of 2018-19 tracked well ahead of Budget estimates," the tax office added.

At the same time, the ATO said its tax avoidance taskforce raised AU$2.96 billion in liabilities for 2017-18 from multinationals and large public groups, and a further AU$1.8 billion from wealthy individuals and associated private groups. The liabilities covered tax returns from 2005 to 2018.

The result is less than the AU$4 billion raised for 2016-17, but the number is dependent on a handful of large cases, the ATO said.

"Over AU$3 billion of this related to six significant cases we were able to bring to conclusion with the help of the taskforce funding and the MAAL [multinational anti-avoidance laws]," it said.

"The MAAL measure influenced the outcome in a number of very significant cases by encouraging settlement discussions to be brought forward in relation to past and future years."

Prior to the low value GST coming into force, Amazon announced it would end shipping to Australia out of its global store.

At the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- formerly Treasurer -- said the decision taken was a commercial one.

"If you are selling things in Australia, it's subject to tax," Morrison said in June.

"You don't get a special deal because you are a big company or a multinational -- we're certainly not going to let that wash with this government.

"I think it is disappointing that Amazon would take this out of consumers in Australia, but that's their commercial decision, and if they want to take their bat and ball and go home then I think Australians will form the same view about that as they do about others who do that sort of thing in our community."

In November, Amazon changed its tune and said it would allow Australians to shop from an increased selection of its global website as a response to customer feedback.

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