back to article Australian online shoppers and Netflix to be fully taxed in 2017

Australia has decided to scrap a tax exemption for imported goods bought online. Australia levies a ten per cent “goods and services tax” (GST, think VAT, British readers and sales tax in North America) on wide range of goods, but currently exempts imported items valued at less than AUD$1,000 from the tax. The nation's now …

  1. Scoular

    Bound to work

    I expect that the companies will adopt the same high standards of honesty and ethics as the Australian government.

  2. LaeMing

    Not really doing anything

    in a looking-like-doing-something kind of way.

  3. Lyle Dietz

    Pointless exercise

    "The second hoped-for effect is to make life easier for Australian retailers, who complain they cannot match offshore players on price."

    The local retailers by and large still won't be competitive. There is a PC bits shop near me that charges way under RRP which is cometitive with foreign prices, but that's about it.

    Those who set the RRPs in Australia are taking the piss.

  4. manitoublack


    Going after big content to pay tax will be fairly easy. But there is a reason all my goods come marked as:


    "Warranty, replacement"

    "Faulty replacement"

    "Personal import"

    It's not worth going after eBay and general online sales; as was noted by the prior report. The cost to check/police everything at the boarder will be massive and slow down deliveries. Basically build a false economy where the government makes no extra cash, but punters have to pay more for good, thus slowing the economy in general. I like how the government thinks it'll have any luck sending tax officials overseas to ask them to charge a foreign tax. That's almost cute.

    eTailor: "Hello Mr. Australian Tax official, what can I do for you?

    Tax Official: "We want you to charge, collect and forward an Australian Tax on orders sent to Australia, to the ATO."

    eTailor: "Hmm, let me think... How about you get bent, and we call it even?

    Tax official: "Why do people keep saying that to me?" *walks off confused*

    Jordan Allen

    1. mathew42

      Re: Wack-O-Mole

      eTailor: "Hello Mr. Australian Tax official, what can I do for you?

      Tax Official: "We want you to charge, collect and forward an Australian Tax on orders sent to Australia, to the ATO."

      eTailor: "Hmm, let me think... How about you get bent, and we call it even?"

      Tax Official: "We will hold your packages at the customs until the customer pays the GST. A $20 fee will be charged to the delivery service who will be responsible for collection of the GST."

      eTailor: "Umm... thats going to annoy our customers"

      eTailor: "So we collect 10% and submit payment 28 days after the end of each month?"

      Tax Official: "Yes"

      eTailor: "Express delivery of packages through customs?"

      Tax Official: "Yes"

      eTailor: "I think that we can come to an arrangement."

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Wack-O-Mole

        And why do you think retailer would care ? He sold his goods, got money, end of story, customs is a buyer issue. If you think that someone in USA would do a fsck over minuscule Australian sales to go through all hassle of dealing with tax office in foreign jurisdiction your name must be Malcolm Turnbull.

        1. mathew42

          Retailers care about reputation

          > And why do you think retailer would care ?

          Some will and some won't. There are online retailers who market to Australia (including posting deals on sites such as ozbargain) and freight forwarders who care about reputation. Plus the business can keep the GST for up to 56 days.

          Below Steve 129 provides an excellent example of how punitive the government will be, except in this case it is likely to be the courier who will have to act as an interface between the government and recipient. Buyers will soon learn about this and will prefer to buy from sellers who pre-pay the GST because it save them money. Businesses won't care because they receive a credit for GST payments.

          1. DainB Bronze badge

            Re: Retailers care about reputation

            "Businesses won't care because they receive a credit for GST payments."

            You can make up whatever you want truth is there's no precedent in the whole world where retailer obliged to collects tax on behalf of other jurisdiction. And there's no way it can be enforced or verified, ever.

  5. Denarius Silver badge

    another incoming FAIL

    so the "Free Trade" treaties/sellouts this and previous excuses signed are not going to be affected by a $17 collection/pickup fee at point of near delivery ? ATO are not stupid, unlike the denizens of Pointy House on Hill and have stated the cost of collection is not worth it for items under $1K. As for the post offices, most wont even try outside of main cities due to lack of space and already tiny margins.

    Another stuffup, probably designed to fail so the Liberals have something to use in a campaign in next years election. Unfortunately, most of us already feel shuffling desk chairs on circus Oz is as futile as the Titanic unless by some miracle some intelligent people get elected. No, Greenies don't count, despite a Green senator being very effective and reasonable. Take a bow Scott.

  6. Mark Simon

    Not Quite

    “The nation's now decided that limit should go for online purchases.”

    No, the nation’s overlords have made that decision.

    I doubt that any body casting their vote in the last election even imagined that the Gummint would cave in to the likes of Gerry Harvey who thinks the only way to convince the public to patronise his store is to make the rest of the world more expensive.

    This is not good for the Australian public, and not good for the economy in the long term. Only when true competition is about being better rather than being cheaper will we improve our quality of life.

  7. splatman

    This measure reflects either the profound ignorance, or the utter cynicism, of the political classes. 10% GST will not make an iota of difference. The competitive advantage of AliExpress, BangGood, etc is FREE SHIPPING, not GST. That is what Australian retailers cannot compete with.

    1. mathew42
      Thumb Up

      Shipping is not free

      The shipping is built into the price of the goods, but you are correct. I can have cheap items (e.g cree led torches) delivered under $4, but postage in Australia would be $7.45 plus cost of torch. Mind you delivery from those sites typically does take a month.

      1. splatman

        Re: Shipping is not free

        More likely the shipping is being subsidised by the Chinese government, and by a poorly negotiated reciprocal agreement between Australia Post and the Chinese. I can buy a 50c item on AliExpress that would cost $2 here, and still get free shipping. It probably costs Australia Post more than 50c to deliver it to my door.

        You have to worry - a lot - when our "leaders" like Joe Hockey are too uninformed and too stupid to join the right dots together.

  8. Steve 129

    They will likely do as UK Customs seem to do and assume guilty

    EVERY package we send to our family in the UK gets stopped at customs and import tax assessed even though we explicitly follow the rules, individually package and mark items and keep below the limits.

    Customs NEVER let them through, as they should be legally required to do, but always try to charge more than the items are worth in tax and fees.

    Every time my family needs to go down to the customs office and say 'Open it up and check it. We followed your rules so you can't charge tax"

    It is disgusting bullying by the customs office as I am sure most people don't have the time/patience/will to go down there (during office hours) and prove they should not pay import duty.

    1. Benno

      Re: They will likely do as UK Customs seem to do and assume guilty

      I've just had a similar fight with Aust. customs. They wanted to charge me 5% duty on $2000AUD worth of goods from the USA that were meant to be duty fee under the FTA. I eventually won the dispute and only paid brokerage + GST.

      But the fact that they tried it on anyway (when the nature of the goods and tarrif code clearly indicated the situation), is the bit that is annoying.

      It _seems_ that that their SOP is 'charge unless we get caught out'.

      Not looking forward to them being involved in collecting/processing the little stuff too.

      (and I'm sure they're not chuffed about it either)

  9. DesktopGuy

    won't make much difference

    I buy goods from overseas not because they are 10% cheaper being GST free. I buy them because they are 50% to 90% cheaper!!

    Once the government charges GST, these are business purchases so I get that 10% back anyway.

    Once this scheme fails and its shown to cost more to collect the tax than what it nets, Gerry Harvey and his cronies will have to come up with a new complaint as to why Australian retailers can't compete.

    1. hitmouse

      Re: won't make much difference

      I buy stuff from overseas because it is simply not available in Australia. I can't even buy lossless digital releases of Australian music unless I use a VPN to buy from an overseas retailer - there are simply no outlets here.

      Also books - digital or paper - most of what I get is simply not available here.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: won't make much difference

        I recently purchased two Samsung memory modules from China for ~$5 + $5 P&P. With GST levied that would have been $10.50.

        Locally I could purchase one (no-name) module for $28, but since there was only one in stock useless for my purposes. Would the $0.50 GST impost make me purchase locally? You'd have to be a complete fucking moron to believe I'd pay $56 plus a stocking fee instead of $10.50. Yes, Mr Hardly Normal and our politicians are complete fucking morons!

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Eleventy percent

    "Australian treasurer (think chancellor or treasury secretary) Joe Hockey"

    Alternately; think Homer Simpson.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: Eleventy percent

      Next to Hockey, Homer Simpson is a God damn genius.

  11. -tim

    This will not turn out as planned

    There are only two minor issues with this plan which won't let it bring in as much money as they think. The first is now GST won't be collected as often on things over the $1000 limit as the processing system won't work properly.

    The second reason is that any large group that has to send in a massive amount of GST will end up playing high speed automated foreign exchange currency games. I figure that will knock at least 5% off the AUD early some morning resulting in a massive unfixable currency problem.

  12. Neoc

    So if I pay a sales tax overseas, this is counted against the 10% GST, right? Or, more likely, will the Oz government double-tax me for an item?

    If I pay income tax overseas in a multitude of countries, I do not have to pay tax on that income in Australia - there are reciprocal tax practices in place. Ditto, if a company has already paid the tax on the dividend it is paying me, I don't have to pay tax on said dividend. But there seems to be no such provision in this taxation regime. Looks like OzGov is trying to double-dip to me.

    1. mark 177

      Double Taxation?

      In the EU at least, VAT is not charged on exports outside its borders. So tax would only be charged once. A similar arrangement applies to sales tax in the USA - except it applies to any purchase shipped out of the retailer's state - even within the US.

  13. Colin Tree

    if ever

    Mr Hockey said "it will take a long time to get this right, if ever. We are going to have taxation officials travel around the world visiting companies asking them to register for GST purposes. There could be hundreds of them..."

    He has no idea how much tax it will bring in, but it was certain to exceed the cost of collection because Australian officials would not be asked to open parcels to check whether tax had been paid.

    Hockey's a moron.

  14. tim 68

    When this comes in...

    I will import thousands of $2 packages from China over the course of a year, and I will let those packages sit around at my local post office for as long as possible before picking them up and paying the GST.

    In terms of parcel holding real estate, my local post office will likely become mine alone.

    If a few thousand of us do it, the postal and customs systems will self-destruct under the load.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure why Netflix would give a shit.

    If their service is provided outside Australia, then why wouldn't they just tell the Aussie government to spin on it?

    It's not like they have any physical goods that customs could take a look at.

  16. rtb61

    Imported goods have paid no tax along the way and make no contribution to the economy. So why the hell isn't GST double on all imported goods 20%, it makes sense.

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