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Our compliance approach to imported services, digital products and low value imported goods

We encourage non-residents to comply with our laws.

Last updated 7 December 2021

GST is applied to imported services, digital products and low value imported goods sold to customers in Australia. We encourage non-residents to comply with our laws.

Apply GST correctly

You must apply GST to the amount you charge for imported services, digital products and low value imported goods sold to customers in Australia.

You don’t have to apply GST to these sales if the customer is a GST-registered Australian business and they have given you their Australian business number (ABN) and a statement that they are registered for Australian GST.

You can use the ABN Lookup toolExternal Link on the Australian Business Register (ABR) to check if the ABN is correct.

Your systems and accounting records must identify these transactions. You must also keep the information given to you by customers to show why you didn't charge GST.

Our compliance approach

In this section

Your rights and obligations

We’re here to support you and expect you to take reasonable steps to comply with Australia's tax laws.

If you need help, contact us and we will work with you.

Even though your business is based offshore, you have the same rights and obligations as Australian domestic businesses.

See also:

Compliance action

We take action when non-resident suppliers haven't registered for GST or aren't paying us the right amount of GST collected from sales to customers in Australia.

We identify these businesses through our data-matching technology, which keeps track of the digital economy. We use financial data from many sources, including bank records.

If we think you are not complying with Australian tax law, we will contact you. If you don't respond to us, we may commence a risk review or audit on your business. A risk review or audit may result in us:

  • registering you for Australian GST
  • calculating your GST liability (using third party information – for example, bank information)
  • sending you an assessment of your liability based on our calculation with an additional 75% administrative penalty
  • applying general interest charge (GIC) to amounts you owe us from earlier tax periods
  • intercepting funds from Australia that are destined for you
  • registering the debt in a court in your country
  • using debt collection procedures and, where tax treaties allow, work with the tax authority in your country to collect the debt.

We can take serious action if we believe the main purpose of your structure or transactional arrangements is to get a GST benefit directly or indirectly.

See also:

Identifying non-resident businesses that don't comply

We use a number of information sources to find non-compliant businesses including:

  • financial data tracking to follow the flow of funds from purchasers to suppliers overseas
  • customs data giving details of imports of goods into Australia
  • information from other countries that we obtain under arrangements to share information
  • online investigations to identify websites and businesses involved in supplying imported services, digital products and low value imported goods to customers in Australia
  • information from individuals or businesses who report non-compliance to us
  • information provided by similar businesses when they report and pay the GST they have collected.

We use data matching processes to find situations where businesses haven't met their GST obligations.

We also consider and investigate any information provided to us anonymously.

Information from other countries

We have arrangements with other countries to request information to identify legal entities operating e-commerce websites. These arrangements include tax treaties and the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.

We can use available tax treaties to engage with your tax authority to:

  • advise them that your business has not complied with Australian tax obligations
  • request information about your business including records held by financial institutions
  • request help to collect the debt resulting from our assessment of your tax liability and penalty.

See also Tax treaties.

Businesses that don't do the right thing

If your business doesn't do the right thing, consequences such as interest, penalties and prosecution can apply if you:

  • deliberately fail to register for GST when you need to
  • intentionally fail to report, or consistently under-report, your tax obligations
  • conspire with others to evade or avoid tax obligations
  • intentionally do not meet your tax obligations.

Customers in Australia who give ABNs to avoid GST

Customers in Australia who misrepresent themselves as a GST-registered business by giving you an ABN that isn't theirs are committing an offence and significant penalties apply to them.

You can use the ABN Lookup toolExternal Link on the ABR to check if the ABN is correct.

Tell us if you suspect non-compliance

If you know of, or suspect tax evasion, you can report it to the Tax Integrity Centre by completing the tip-off form.

See also the Tax Integrity Centre's Tip-off form.