Online shoppers could be slugged up to $7 more per package when buying products from overseas under a Federal Government proposal.
- Packages worth more than $1,000 already attract a levy, but this plan would apply it to all overseas purchases
- The ABC understands a tax of between $2 and $7 is being considered
- The Government says this will help recover the costs of screening items at the border
The Home Affairs Department is considering whether every package imported into Australia should be hit with a new levy to help cover the costs of screening items at the border.
The tax already applies for packages worth more than $1,000, but the Government’s plan would see shoppers have to shell out the extra charge for all overseas purchases.
The ABC understands a tax of between $2 and $7 has been considered.
Nearly 40 million “low value” parcels arrived in Australia last financial year — roughly two per person.
A discussion paper on the proposed tax argued the levy was needed to recover costs associated with biosecurity, cargo and trade border activities.
“Existing cost recovery arrangements are no longer sustainable and will not support Australia’s future trading environment,” it stated.
Freight and Trade Alliance director Paul Zalai said the charge was necessary to recover border and biosecurity agencies’ costs.
“A levy is necessary. The border and biosecurity agencies provide an important role in protecting the community and our farmers from bio security risks … that role does need to have costs recovered,” he said.
Mr Zalai conceded the cost of that levy would ultimately come back to consumers.
“The nuts and bolts of how that will work is yet to be determined and [will be] based on individual commercial basis,” he said.
“On the ‘back of a coaster’ calculation, those costs will be more likely in the dollars rather than cents per transaction.
“I could not imagine it being over the $10 mark, but there are just so many factors that we don’t have the transparency to try and do the actual calculations.”
He said the ultimate decision on a figure for the levy, to be made by the Home Affairs and Agriculture departments, would depend on how much extra work the “low value” goods create for border and biosecurity agencies.
eBay says levy ‘not in the spirit of free trade’
Online shopping giant eBay criticised the proposal and said it was in consultation with the Government about the discussion paper.
“We have serious concerns over any proposed levy,” a spokesman said.
“This will hit consumers hard and is not in the spirit of free trade.”
Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm said the new levy was unnecessary.
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“This Government seems to have an endless capacity to come up with new taxes and increase existing taxes,” he said.
“We’re already extremely highly taxed and I despair at the idea that we’ll ever end up with any of our own money in our own pockets.
“It’s just terrible.”
The levy would come on top of a new GST charge, which will be added to imported products from July 1, 2018.
The 10 per cent goods and services tax will also apply to purchases under $1,000.