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Retailers face GST issues threat

RETAILERS and their advisers have been put on notice by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The recent release of regulations by the ACCC outlines the obligations of retailers in complying with the new GST changes.

PricewaterhouseCoopers GST specialist Karen Dill-Macky said although the main changes to the tax system start on 1 July 2000, the ACCC was already monitoring.

“In particular, the ACCC will be looking at misleading or deceptive representations being made about price claims and the new tax system,” Ms Dill-Macky said.

“For example, businesses encouraging consumers to buy now to beat the GST may be placing themselves under scrutiny where their prices actually go down from 1 July 2000.”

The ACCC has already brought action against a private company distributing forms seeking businesses to register for GST and pay a fee.

The forms were similar in style to those used by the Australian Taxation Office and the ACCC considered taxpayers could be potentially misled.

“Businesses should not think of the GST as just a tax issue when there are a number of pricing, marketing and commercial issues that must also be addressed,” Ms Dill-Macky said.

She said the scrutiny of the ACCC was also directed at business advisers.

“Food retailers will be especially affected as a result of the amendments to the legislation that exempted certain foods from the GST,” Ms Dill-Macky said.

In response to this, the tax office has indicated it may review schemes to reduce the complex burden for food retailers.

It is likely to follow similar schemes operating for food retailers in Canada and the UK.

One suggestion has been to assess all wholesale invoices for a business over a six month period and calculate a rate on all purchases – possibly about 7 per cent.

“These schemes may not follow the guidelines the ACCC has published,” Ms Dill-Macky said.

“Therefore we may see specific changes to regulations should these schemes be recommended,” she said.

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