The ATO is targeting ecommerce businesses ahead of changes to GST laws

KAZBEK BASAYEV / AFP / Getty Images

The Australian Taxation Office has used data-matching from external sources to identify thousands of businesses that may need to register for the new GST on low-value goods sold online.

Currently items bought online worth less than $1,000 are not charged GST but that exemption will be removed from July next year, as part of a government crackdown on multinationals avoiding tax obligations that local businesses are held to.

The Productivity Commission is compiling a report on how the removal of the exemption can be implemented, which has attracted submissions from a variety of stakeholders – including Amazon, Australia Post and the ATO.

The tax office revealed in its feedback that it had pulled in data from “a number of third party sources” to draw up a list up to 3,000 businesses that may need to register for the new low-value GST.

“Our client base modelling provides us with a business’ activities, location and contact information,” the submission reads.

“We continue to make appropriate refinements and are also undertaking exchange of information requests with other jurisdictions.”

The ATO stated that it would further improve its data sharing and matching capabilities with the department of immigration and border protection to enforce the low-value GST on incoming packages, as well as perform financial transaction tracking.

While the tax office preferred to promote voluntary participation for low-value GST, it stated it would perform “active compliance” on businesses that fail to comply themselves.

Despite the inherent issues in an Australian government agency trying to enforce local rules onto businesses based overseas, the ATO said it had “long experience” in this area.

“Many non-residents have been required to register for and account for GST since it commenced in 2000. We have well-established processes for identification, communication and monitoring of these taxpayers,” its submission read.

The tax office can also invoke international taxation treaties and the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters to attempt to recover outstanding debt to the Australian government.

The Productivity Commission is scheduled to hand its final report to the government by the end of the month.

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