The National Retail Association (NRA) called on the Abbott Government to finish the work begun by its predecessors in levelling the GST playing field for Australian retailers.
NRA Chief Executive Trevor Evans said the previous Labor Government had conducted a review of the GST, which recommended closing the loophole around imported goods worth under $1000, saying the current system was open to “flagrant abuse”.
“Twelve months ago the Gillard Government ordered some business cases to look at how the GST could be collected on imported goods, and these studies have continued under the current government,” Mr Evans said.
“It’s time for this issue to be settled, and for the Federal Treasurer Mr Hockey to move to protect the integrity of the tax system. We look forward to prompt action following meeting of the State and Commonwealth Treasurers.”
Mr Evans dismissed claims the changes were simply about protecting “bricks and mortar” retailers from on-line competition.
“This impacts Australian-based on-line retailers in exactly the same way. It's not about clicks versus bricks, it's about Australian retailers of all kinds being disadvantaged by a loophole in our tax system.
“The only retailers able to exploit the loophole are those who operate off-shore.
“The only winners are overseas retail giants such as Amazon.com, while small Australian businesses are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. It’s like a reverse tariff, and there is no good reason to allow it to continue.
“Australian retailers are not asking for an advantage over their competitors – just for our government to let us compete for business on a level playing field.”
Mr Evans also rejected suggestions any change would amount to a breach of the government’s promise not to increase the GST.
“The vast bulk of on-line purchases are consumer goods that were always intended to attract the GST when the tax was devised. If you purchased them in a store you would pay GST.
“This is not extending the reach of the tax – it’s about closing an unfair and illogical loophole.”
The NRA is Australia's largest and most diverse retail industry organisation, and has been representing the interests of the retail, fast food and broader service sector for almost 100 years.