Govt amends 'Netflix' tax bill for GST on digital goods

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Govt amends 'Netflix' tax bill for GST on digital goods

Multinationals selling more than $75k into Australia asked to comply.

The Australian government has released its revised exposure draft of legislation that would see GST added to all locally-bought digital products and services sold by overseas vendors by July 2017.

In May this year former Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed plans to expand the goods and services tax to digital products such as those provided by US-based Netflix and Google.

It would see the GST apply to intangibles such as digital books, music and software provided by overseas-based companies, in a plan the government expects will reap it $350 million over four years, to be passed on to the states.

Treasury today released the Tax Laws Amendment (GST Treatment of Cross-border Transactions) Bill 2015 following an eight-week consultation period. The amended bill includes greater detail on how the law will operate as well as extra provisions governing things like a registration threshold. The previous legislation did not contain a threshold.

The new draft states that the Australian Tax Office will require companies that sell more than $75,000 worth of products into Australia to register their products for GST collection. The request will also be made to not-for-profits selling $150,000 worth of goods.

Where sales are made through electronic marketplaces like eBay or Amazon, the platform operator will hold liability for GST rather than the product vendor, the draft law states.

"When the GST was introduced in 2000, such transactions were relatively unusual, especially for consumers. However, cross-border supplies now form a large and growing part of Australian consumption," the explanatory document states [pdf].

"The growing importance of these types of transactions has highlighted the fact that the GST system was designed with a focus on Australian-based, rather than cross-border supplies ... This harms the integrity of the GST tax base and can disadvantage local suppliers."

If passed, the legislation will come into effect on July 1 2017. The Treasury is taking submissions on the exposure draft until October 21.

The draft legislation is coupled with the government's policy decision to remove the $1000 GST-free threshold for online goods by mid 2017.

The initiatives form part of its wider $86 million efforts - run by the Tax Office - to crack down on tax avoidance by multinationals operating in Australia.

Earlier this week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of its two-year study into base erosion and profit-shifting. The effort is aimed at clawing back $240 billion in lost tax revenue globally.

The BEPS project made 15 recommendations, including a country-by-country reporting system, which Australia has already moved to introduce.

The OEC said more than 90 countries had agreed to enact the BEPS recommendations by 2016.

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