eBay says it will likely block Australian shoppers from buying goods from overseas if the government pushes ahead with plans to apply GST on all goods sold through the online marketplace.
Goods bought from overseas sellers and imported to Australia worth less than $1000 are currently GST exempt, but Treasurer Scott Morrison wants to apply the 10 per cent tax to all sales from July 1 this year.
“Regrettably, the Government’s legislation may force eBay to prevent Australians from buying from foreign sellers,” eBay Australia and New Zealand vice president Jooman Park wrote in a submission to a senate inquiry into the so-called “Amazon Tax”.
“This appears to be the most likely outcome at present.
“No tax would be paid to Australia and none would be owed. It would raise no revenue, deny Australians access to choice and lessen price competition.”
Mr Park said an eBay ban would not even help local bricks and mortar retailers – who have been lobbying for the tax – and nor would the tax generate significant revenue, because Australians would simply move to “opaque parts of the internet” where they could buy from online retailers that did not comply with the new rules.
The proposed tax treats online sales platforms like eBay and Amazon as the supplier, meaning they would be responsible for applying the tax.
But eBay said that it did not own, hold or distribute goods, nor handle payments.
“In reality, buyers use the eBay search engine to find goods and choose which seller to transact with,” Mr Park said.
“Deeming eBay to be a seller is a fiction designed by the Government to give the impression of raising revenue.”
Mr Park also said the proposed tax was overly complex, with goods worth under $1000 having tax applied by the seller while goods worth over $1000 would be shipped tax-free and taxed by Australian customs upon entry to the country.
“Separate goods in one box would appear to attract both tax treatments,” he said.
Mr Park suggested shipping companies, including Australia Post and its parcel arm StarTrack, be made responsible for tax.
“These companies can require buyers to declare whether a good is new and to nominate a value of the good as part of the pricing of parcel delivery to Australia,” he said.
In its submission, Amazon said GST should be levied on all goods but said it shouldn’t have to collect the tax, agreeing with eBay that shipping companies should be made responsible.
The July 1 start date for the new tax was “completely unrealistic”, with both businesses and government unable to implement required changes by then, Mr Park said.