Canberra unrepentant on Amazon: If you sell into Australia, you have to pay tax

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison says Amazon has taken a commercial decision to block Australians, and that's fine.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on

Despite being able to handle different sales tax in different jurisdictions around the world, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison has said Amazon's decision to move its Australian users away from its US storefront is a commercial one.

On Thursday, Amazon announced that due to changes in the collection of Australia's GST on low-value imported items, Australians heading to amazon.com would be redirected to amazon.com.au, and unable to purchase items from its US store.

"If you are selling things in Australia, it's subject to tax," Morrison told reporters on Friday.

"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."

Morrison went against his recent income tax reduction pitches, and extolled the virtues of taxes paying for government services thanks to this increased revenue stream.

"It's AU$300 million of estimated revenue that will be going to the states and territories to pay for hospitals, schools, police stations, which is what tax revenue does," he said.

"We think this is a very fair and reasonable step, I know retailers have been wanting to see this now for some time."

The Treasurer said companies affected by the collection of GST on items sold into Australia worth less than AU$1,000 have had plenty of time to adjust and get themselves organised for the July 1 switchover.

"If they don't want to sell things into Australia because they don't like paying tax, well, there are plenty of better options here right at home."

Under the laws passed in June 2017, online platforms such as eBay, Alibaba, Etsy, and Amazon are responsible for the collection of GST from platform users who sell over AU$75,000 worth of goods into Australia annually.

Alibaba previously warned that the current model was unworkable and "contrary to good international tax policy", with the company saying that it wouldn't be surprised if overseas vendors stopped selling into Australia.

The laws are expected to raise AU$300 million over three years with vendors having to voluntarily register with the Australian Taxation Office.

Facing Senate Estimates in March, ATO deputy commissioner Tim Dyce said there has been 320 registrations by overseas companies so far.

"Interestingly, the other countries have had around 100-120 registered," Dyce said. "We've had 320 registered so we've set a benchmark for the other countries."

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