Close to 100 countries have signed up to a new set of tax principles to govern how goods and services are taxed across borders. But local retailers are unsure as to what kind of pressure the international consensus will have in Australia, where state and territory governments are yet to reach an agreement about changing the $1000 GST threshold for online purchases from offshore suppliers. Representatives from 86 countries endorsed the guidelines from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Tokyo, Japan, on April 18 as part of the OECD Global Forum on VAT. The guidelines, which represent the first internationally agreed framework for applying value-added tax across national borders, aim to help countries avoid both double-taxation and under-taxation. The guidelines relate to two areas: VAT neutrality and ensuring taxes on business-to-business trade is services are destination-based. The level at which GST is applied to online purchases from offshore suppliers in Australia is a hotly-contested issue, with many local retailers arguing that lowering the threshold from $1000 to a much smaller amount such as $20 would create a more even playing field. The Productivity Commission examined the issue in 2011 but found that the cost of collecting GST on online purchases at a threshold of $20 would far outweigh the benefit. Australian National Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany while there has been “robust discussion” on the topic between the federal government and retailers, he is unsure as to how much pressure the OECD guidelines will have added to the local debate. However, Zimmerman said the endorsement “does show that every country is concerned” about international tax arrangements. Zimmerman said the OECD guidelines may have more of an impact on multinational companies who use corporate structures across various territories to attempt to avoid their tax obligations. State and territory ministers were due to make a decision about the threshold in March but an agreement was hampered by the elections in Tasmania and South Australia. “It’s fair to say that the issue will go to another cabinet meeting,” says Zimmerman of the next step. Zimmerman said the ARA hopes the recent elevation to NSW Premier of former treasurer Mike Baird, a strong supporter of lowering the GST threshold, will spur the debate. This story first appeared on SmartCompany
Penalty rates, flexibility and pay conditions are on the agenda for the upcoming Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act, according to Fairfax Media. A leaked draft terms of reference for the review revealed the broad scope of inquiry this morning, as Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong called on the Productivity Commission to be practical, rather than ideological in its approach to workplace issues. “The penalty rates issue is great, but it often gets tied up in ideology. It’s not about getting rid of penalty rates, the big word is actually practicality,” Strong told SmartCompany. “I think the Productivity Commission will stay away from ideology and actually look at the impact on productivity.” The wide-ranging review is also set to look at union militancy, the ability of the labour market to respond to economic conditions and the impact of current laws on unemployment. Small Business Minister Bruce Billson told SmartCompany the review has been designed to “support the objectives of the nation in terms of the economy and employment opportunities”. “It’s consistent with our election commitment and it will improve the incomes, livelihoods and employment opportunities for Australians and also the economy more generally. “We will take the changes to the next election so the electorate can decide if they’re for the good of Australia.” The review’s scope is pleasing to small business, but Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany “it’s no surprise”. “I don’t think it’s really anything different to what the government said prior to the election. There is no great surprise and we’ve always supported the government and the Productivity Commission in its review of the Fair Work Act,” he says. “We will be looking at penalty rates and we’ll be seeking a reduction, particularly on Sunday.” The impact of red tape will also be considered as part of the review, which aims to establish “fair and equitable pay and conditions for employees, including the maintenance of a relevant safety net”, according to Fairfax. The terms of reference are yet to be finalised by Parliament. However, the leaked document revealed it would “maximise outcomes for Australian employers, employees and the economy, bearing in mind the need to ensure workers are protected, the need for business to grow, prosper and employ and the need to reduce unnecessary and excessive regulation”. While penalty rates are an important issue for small business, neither Strong nor Zimmerman expect them to be completely removed. “We don’t think at this point in time we need to have penalty rates abolished completely,” Zimmerman says. However, he does believe lowering weekend rates will help boost employment. “Some of our large retail chains are closing doors on Sundays and public holidays. While this happens no one is getting employed. Obviously this is a detriment to the Australian economy and we need to look at making things better, fairer and boosting productivity for the whole of Australia.” Strong says the broad scope of the review is necessary to meet the needs of small business. “When things get too wound up in one issue, reviews like this tend to lose their way,” he says. “From a small business point of view, it’s not one thing which affects us, it’s several.” Strong says flexibility and pay conditions are also important issues for small business. “With the flexibility legislation, many of us liked the laws which were introduced under the previous government, but they’re too hard to understand. So if the government and the commission is looking at how to better communicate with small business that’s a good thing,” he says. “Pay conditions are also important. In a small workplace none of us are pay masters… We need a system which is easy for both the employers and employees to understand. There needs to be no ambiguity.” Employment Minister Eric Abetz confirmed to ABC Radio the review would be broad and thorough, but did not elaborate further. “We're not in a position to pre-empt what's going to be in the terms of reference other than to say we did promise a comprehensive, broad review of laws,” he says. However, opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor told ABC Radio the scope of the review was “frightening”. “This government has Work Choices in its DNA and it wants to return to reducing conditions of employment particularly for low and mid income earners,” he told ABC radio. “We know now the true intent behind this government in terms of reforming the Fair Work Act.” But Strong says the Productivity Commission has a strong track history. “We’ll get the right hearing and the right recommendations will come out of it, so long as the focus is on practicality, not ideology.” Originally the review was due to be launched on March 7, but earlier this week it was delayed until after the March 15 state elections in Tasmania and South Australia. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Australians spent $2.738 billion in online sales between March to September last year, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ABS retail trade data has for the first time included a separate category for online sales in a time series from March 2013 to September 2013. The data shows the proportion of total retail turnover, which was derived from online retail sales has varied from 1.7% to 1.9% between March and September 2013. ABS statistician Paul Slater told SmartCompany the new information provided a measure of what proportion of domestic retail sales is derived from online retail trade. “It will help measure the response of Australian retailers to the online opportunity,” Slater says. The statistics are intended to assist in the development of microeconomic policy and follow on from data released last year which found 1.8% of retail turnover in May 2013 was derived from online retail sales and of that percentage, 40% was from pure play online retailers. But the figures do not include international retailers’ online sales in Australia. “The existing publication is designed to measure sales by Australian resident businesses so sales by overseas retailers would be out of scope,” Slater says. He says there are “no plans at the moment” to incorporate international sales into the figures, an omission which the Australian Retailers Association has highlighted. Russell Zimmerman, head of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany he welcomes the additional information but “it would be lovely” to get figures on international sales as well. “The real assistance is going to come once we get some real comparatives going and can see how online is trading year on year, that will assist retailers who may be sitting on the fence and deciding whether to get into the online space,” Zimmerman says. The ABS release follows the publication yesterday of National Australia Bank’s online retail sales index which recorded total online retail spending for the 12 months to November of $14.6 billion. “The improved growth trend for online retail sales reflects almost uniform improvement in conditions at category level. In year-on-year terms, the rate of growth was up to 10.7% – faster than that observed in some recent results,” NAB said in a statement. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Social networking giant Twitter has filed papers with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission ahead of an IPO in which it seeks to raise $US1 billion. The company revealed that it had 218 million users as of June 30, compared to around 1.2 billion for Facebook and 240 million for LinkedIn. Twitter also revealed it lost $US69.3 million during the first half of 2013, compared to a $US49.1 million loss for the same time last year, but revenues grew to $US254 million from $US122 million. Turnbull names Switkowski as new NBN chairman Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named former Telstra and Optus chief executive Ziggy Switkowski as the chairman of NBN Co. The German-born nuclear physicist replaces current NBN chairwoman Siobhan McKenna, while also temporarily replacing Mike Quigley as chief executive until a full-time replacement is appointed. “In appointing Dr Switkowski to the board as chairman, we're appointing one of the most experienced telecom executives in Australia ... someone who's been the CEO of not just Telstra but Optus as well, a very distinguished company director and chairman," Turnbull says. Retailers renew calls for GST threshold cut as online shopping figures are released The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing consumers spent more than $7.6 billion on online retailers on purchases below the $1000 GST threshold, prompting calls to remove the low-value threshold. Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman says the higher than expected sales point to an uneven playing field in the sector between local retailers and overseas-based online retailers. “The concern isn't that people are spending money online – either locally or overseas. The concern is that it's not a level-playing field,” Zimmerman says. “We believe that the firm of online [shopping] generally will grow, and as that figure grows, there will be a bigger loss of income to the states and territories if they don't do something about the low-value threshold.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down .9% to 14996.48. The Aussie dollar is at US93.96 cents.
Above: Opposition leader Tony Abbott. The Liberal Party will abandon its promise to cut company tax by 1.5%, should it be elected, new reports have suggested, disappointing business groups which have long called for a cut in this tax rate. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (pictured above) has consistently said he would fund a $3.3 billion parental leave scheme by raising company tax a further 1.5% on the biggest 3,200 companies while introducing a cut of the same size for other businesses. In net terms, this would have resulted in companies outside the top 3,200 having a company tax rate of 28.5%, down from the current 29%. But now, sources have told The Australian Financial Review a 1.5% tax decrease was still possible, but unlikely. This would mean the top 3,200 companies are slugged with an extra tax but other businesses would receive no relief. A spokesperson for Shadow Small Business Minister Bruce Billson told SmartCompany commitments can only be made based on the latest information. “As of the last budget we believe that we can introduce a modest cut to company tax,” he says. “Unlike the Government we will not make reckless spending promises without taking into account changing budget forecasts and a deteriorating budget position.” The move, if it is accurate, is sure to disappoint businesses. The business community reacted negatively last year to the Government’s announcement it would abandon a company tax cut for SMEs. Abbott yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to the paid parental leave scheme and said it would be funded by increasing the company tax rate for Australia’s largest 3,200 companies. “It's been a signature policy of ours since early 2010 and I want this important reform to be one of the things for which an incoming Coalition government is remembered,” he said. “I want to stress that this isn't just a women's issue, it's not just a families issue, it's an economic issue and if we can get more women productively into the workforce, that's good for the economy as well good for families as well as good for society.” Earlier this year SmartCompany investigated the policy changes small business leaders wanted to see this year and a cut in the company tax rate was a regular feature. SmartCompany contacted the executive director of the Council of Small Businesses of Australia, Peter Strong, but he was unavailable to comment prior to publication. Executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, previously told SmartCompany changes to the current tax system are needed. “If there are good reasons to make changes, changes that make more economic sense, then surely we should make those changes,” he said. Chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, was quoted in The Australian Financial Review as saying there were “deep concerns” about Abbott’s parental leave scheme. He said the proposal would, “put a huge additional cost on bigger companies”. “At times like these businesses need reductions on cost burdens, not new ones”. The move comes alongside an admission from the Opposition the budget may not return to surplus for some time, with Opposition Treasurer Joe Hockey signalling a longer than expected wait. “We are not going to go down the path of austerity simply to bring the budget back to surplus because it would end up being a temporary surplus, depending on how big the deficit is that we inherit,” he said yesterday. Earlier this year Hockey pledged on ABC Radio’s AM program the budget would be returned to surplus in the first year of governing, “and every year after that”. This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
Premium chocolate brands and craft beers are among the firm favourites for Easter this year, with Australians set to spend more than $3 billion opting for at-home celebrations over overseas getaways, according to a new report. IBISWorld says that Australian consumers are opting for a “back to basics” Easter this year, with traditional celebrations at home taking precedence over overseas trips and restaurant meals. Across the four-day Easter break, IBISWorld forecasts Australians will spend more than $3 billion, equating to $132.85 per capita – a slight increase on the $130.33 per capita Australians spent last year. The findings are in line with the latest Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence rating, which shows consumer confidence is up to 122 points – 11.4 points higher than at the same time a year ago. Here are some of the key trends and tips for Easter spending in 2013: More discerning chocolate-lovers In 2013, expenditure on chocolate and confectionery is expected to grow by 5.2% to reach $185.7 million. However, many Australians will choose dark, organic chocolate over traditional favourites. “Australians are becoming increasingly health conscious – a trend that has resulted in growing demand for low-fat and low-sugar treats,” says IBISWorld general manager Karen Dobie. “Dark chocolate is expected to be a popular choice this Easter… Sustainability will also be on people’s minds, with fair trade chocolate tipped to be a favoured gift.” In addition to dark and fair trade chocolates, Dobie anticipates consumers’ love of luxury will also come to the fore, with brands such as Lindt and Haigh’s enjoying increasing demand. Seafood fare matched with a premium drop Since many people plan on celebrating Easter at home, Dobie says supermarkets and butchers can expect a boost in spending on traditional barbeque fare, while fishmongers and liquor retailers will also do well. IBISWorld anticipates fish and seafood expenditure to enjoy growth of around 4.9%, with seafood extending its popularity from Good Friday – when many Australians abstain from eating red meat – to Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, alcohol spending is forecast to hit $137.6 million, with imported wines, cider and craft beers tipped as firm favourites. Overall, IBISWorld anticipates food and beverage spending will reach $1.55 billion – a 3.6% increase on last year’s outlay. Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says food retailers need to think about how best to promote their products. “If you’re a general store selling Easter bunnies, you should be predominantly displaying them,” Zimmerman says. “There’s also an opportunity there to perhaps market your Easter bunnies with another product. It’s not just about Easter bunnies – it’s about doing something else to sell with it. “Try and add that extra product in that you want to try and promote.” Similarly, retail guru Debra Templar, of The Templar Group, says bag-stuffers are an ideal way to boost sales. Domestic travel trumps overseas getaways This year, IBISWorld forecasts Easter holiday and travel spending will grow by just 3.9%. However, domestic travel will be more popular than short breaks overseas. “This year most of us will be limited to domestic destinations – using the break to visit family and friends rather than splurging on international trips,” Dobie says. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent approximately 5% more on overseas travel during the past Christmas holidays than in 2011. This suggests Australians will be reining in their spending during subsequent holiday periods, including Easter. “Easter falling outside of the school holidays in some states will also have an impact on international travel,” says Dobie.
It’s only been a few weeks since Mark Brennan stepped into his role as the inaugural Australian small business commissioner, following the announcement of his appointment in October.
Small business has expressed its hesitation over the federal government's planned expansion of flexible workplace laws, saying they could threaten the viability of businesses in certain industries and place undue pressure on struggling SMEs.
Yesterday’s announcement of the 2013 federal election date garnered a largely positive response from business groups, but there are now concerns about “policy paralysis” within government.
Almost 80% of Australian consumers oppose reductions to the GST-free threshold on overseas online purchases, but any change will do little to quell their appetite to spend, new research reveals.
New retail sales figures show sales slid by 0.1% in November, but the December figures could see a significant turnaround after retailers sang the praises of extended trading hours.
Generation X remains the key generational group for online spending, according to analysis by NAB, with an industry expert attributing the finding to Gen X’s easy access to technology.
The start of a new year is the ideal time for retailers to review their security measures, says the Australian Retailers Association, which claims that theft costs the industry $7.5 billion a year.
While the country may be sweltering through some of the hottest days ever recorded, some businesses are actually enjoying some success as the mercury rises.
The carbon tax has been dragged into the spotlight once again, with a new survey by the peak retail body showing 80% of businesses say they have been negatively impacted by the tax.
Start-ups planning to offer gift cards this Christmas have been urged to include all the necessary information, after NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts issued a warning to consumers over misrepresentation.
The Franchise Council of Australia has partnered with a US organisation to launch a professional accreditation program, described as a “must” for franchisors, franchisees and suppliers.
Gerry Harvey is at it again. The retail veteran has predicted gloomy times ahead for the retail industry, saying that while the upcoming Christmas will be a bright spot for many companies, the aftermath will be worse.
A host of retailers have claimed titles at the 2012 Australian Retail Awards including Oroton, Pandora, Lenard’s Chicken and eyeclarity, which was named Independent Retailer of the Year.
The retail campaign to make online purchases subject to GST has been dealt a heavy blow, with prominent executives saying companies should give up the fight and accept it'll never happen.