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Editorial 335: GST-free enforcement, film stars

If all goes according to plan, the GST-free personal import loophole will close on July 1 this year. But it’s awful quiet on the LVIT front. Too quiet. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, really changes.

Addressing offshore online vendors (who are unlikely to be regular visitors to the ATO website) the ATO states: ‘If you sell $75,000 or more of low value goods to consumers in Australia (or other supplies subject to GST) per year, such as through your website or call centre, then you will be required to register for and pay GST on those sales.’

Looking specifically at the Kogan/Dick Smith/Flybynight grey market model: Some businesses are operated in Australia, but goods that are purchased from these businesses are stored and then shipped to consumers from an overseas warehouse. Currently, many of these transactions involving low value goods stored overseas do not incur GST. However, the new rules will mean these businesses are responsible for remitting 1/11th of the sale price to the ATO if the goods are shipped into Australia.’

But given a lack of action speaks louder than a statement of intent, the ATO doesn’t inspire confidence. What will the ATO do if, say, Adorama simply ignores its instructions? Send in the auditors? There are currently businesses making photo books and canvas prints operating out of somewhere in Asia with an office, phone line and bank account in Australia which seem to be snubbing their noses at the ATO already. What, besides higher local costs is to stop them actually printing in Australia without charging GST? Then there are camera companies like Sydney’s Oz Digital Online who also operate here GST-free.

As far as I’m aware, there haven’t been any attempts to penalise businesses like these. It’s all a bit too tiring – like getting multinationals to honour their company tax obligations.
The VAT inspector was a feared presence in the UK when I lived there. Has anyone heard of a GST inspector? It seems there are a lot of laws and regulations in Australia which, through lack of enforcement, have become optional. Just ask pizza delivery people, cleaners or 7-Eleven employees.

If the ATO can’t be bothered with the low hanging fruit of blatant GST avoidance, how on earth will it enforce GST through an international retailer registry?

There’s an exquisite irony in Fujifilm’s non-announcement of the cessation of most of its 35mm film manufacture on the same week that ABC Brisbane Radio News ran a feature on the resurgence of film-based photography! The news spot – which also featured on the ABC website – features a beaming Phil Gresham (FotoFast, Taringa – and yes, Phil actually can ‘beam’ on radio) waxing enthusiastic about his film processing customers and business, and getting a nice plug in for converting negs and slides into digital form and printed as well.

He also noted that ‘Kodak are now producing a range similar to what they had way back when.’ Not so much interest from the current market leader, however. Nice one Phil! A consummate performance reminding people of the value of photo specialists. And I suspect the film processor has been running hot ever since.

One Comment

  1. VOR VOR February 15, 2017

    Perhaps Photocounter could do an investigation on how many of the major accounts in Australia actually support local vs buying their film and cameras from B&H…..make for some interesting reading i feel!

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