Disaster Looming for Australian Moviemakers & Photographers Needing Supplies from Foreign Online Retailers & Manufacturers?

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From July 1st 2018 the Australian Federal Government will require all online retailers and manufacturers retailing their own products online to become unpaid goods and services tax collectors for the Government, a move that could well prove disastrous for Australian creatives, especially Australian moviemakers and photographers whether enthusiasts or working professionally, many of whom are self-funded or poorly paid if paid at all and can hardly afford further hits to their savings or income. 

Australian treasurer and money church maven Scott Morrison has justified this requirement as somehow, presumably magically and mysteriously, encouraging foreign-based multinational corporations to pay their fair share of corporate tax in Australia despite the GST being levelled on purchases by consumers.

Until the 1st July 2018, the current GST collection regime will be in operation whereby Australian Customs, now the Australian Border Force agency of the Department of Home Affairs super-department run by Minister Peter Dutton,  will level 10% GST on imports over the value of $AU 1,000.00.

From July 1 onwards, it appears, retailers outside Australia will be required to collect 10% GST from their customers on purchase of goods and services whatever their value.

When the new GST collection regime was announced in 2017, the reasonable assumption was that the 10% tax would be applied and collected by the same Customs officers who have been successfully processing imports of over $AU 1,000.00 for some time.

That now appears not to be the case, and instead suppliers are being invited to apply to become tax-collecting agents of the Australian Government, with 320 or so currently signed up.

The revelation of May 31 2018 by Amazon.com that the company will refuse to supply direct to Australian customers from July 1 onwards, instead redirecting them to the understocked, overpriced Amazon Australia online store has kicked off a slew of articles in the Australian mainstream media, revealing there is more to last year’s GST announcement than meets the eye.

The soon-to-be former $AU 1,000.00 threshold was introduced due to the Australian Tax Office determining that collecting GST on that amount or less would be uneconomic.

Updated to the Consumer Price Index, that figure would now be $AU 1,600.00.

Rational economic thinking does not automatically influence governments to do the sensible thing and so it was believed that the Australian Government was willing to take the hit on a matter of ideology and instruct Customs officers to process imports of less than $AU 1,000.00 as well.

Today we have learned that the buck has been passed to online suppliers and manufacturers.

I have relied on importing goods of all sorts and values for use in my creative work since my art school days.

My prime source for that has been  the incredibly well-stocked B&H Photo Video superstore in New York City and it has served me well for several decades.

I buy some major items such as cameras and lenses locally when I can source what I need here, but we have nothing like B&H in Australia and never will.

I have purchased some rare specialist items from Amazon UK and Amazon US and more often third party sellers that use Amazon as a storefront but gave up several years ago on repeatedly discovering that many point blank refuse to sell to Australian customers due to the quality of Australia Post’s delivery service.

Their reason: Australia Post’s unreliability and carelessness in handling led to too many claims for replacements or reimbursements to purchasers.

Amazon.com’s application of its own shipping rules to self and third-party products can be inexplicable at best, often baffling third party sellers as well as customers.

Many was the time I have tried to buy several related items from a given third-party Amazon.com seller only to find that Amazon.com will sell me one but not the others, rendering the transaction pointless.

The third party sellers concerned turned out to be just as puzzled as I and could offer no solution.

As a result I refuse to use my Amazon.com affiliate account in the “Help support ‘Untitled'” section of these web pages, instead relying on the ever-reliable, ever-rational B&H.

I hope that B&H and other online retailers and manufacturers relied upon by self-funded, independent moviemakers and photographers like me will not adopt the Jeff Bezos Amazon “Let them eat cake” approach by refusing to become unpaid tax collectors for the Australian Government.

But the question remains, B&H and other foreign online retail giants aside, will smaller suppliers be able to set up the GST-collection mechanisms that are not a barrier to their larger brethren?

B&H and its competitors have the means and, I hope, the will to set up Australian GST collection departments, mechanisms and staff pools, but they certainly do not stock all the many and various specialist and custom items creatives like me buy direct from their designers and makers as our projects demand.

As so many readers of the articles below have stated, buying Australian is costly and in many cases simply not possible given the nature of Australian retailers, Australian importers and distributors, and Australian online suppliers.

If the Australian Government is planning on inconveniencing Australian creatives by making it difficult, costly or impossible to source the items we need to do our work, then it is about to do a sterling job of it.

I would hate to be forced by the Australian Government’s actions to do without the excellent products made by small foreign companies such as, for example, Breakthrough Photography, Seercam, SmallRig and many, many more.

It would cripple my work.

Little wonder so many Australian creatives have for so long left this country to live and work overseas.

I asked Henry Posner, Director of Corporate Communications at B&H, if they have signed up to the Australian Federal Government’s GST foreign tac collection agent scheme.

Mr Posner replied that…

As of this minute we do not plan to change how we handle transactions from Australian customers.

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