Book Depository sparks tax dispute

bookdepThe Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) is demanding a tax crackdown for offshore booksellers following speculation US-based online retailer, Book Depository, will supply customers from Australian publishers and distributors and avoid paying GST.

According to a report from Booksellers and Publishing, the online book industry publication has been speaking to Australian publishers and book distributors to set up a direct supply of locally published books.

A major question is how GST will be collected as Book Depository, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon, operates offshore and does not collect GST. It has been suggested it will claim a tax credit for purchases from Australian Publishers for the GST they should have paid.

Tony Nash, CEO of Australian online retailer, Booktopia, speculates that the Book Depository’s offering will have Australian publishers and distributors sending their books to an Australia Post location and then Australia Post will ship the books to the Australian Book Depository customers’ addresses.

Joel Becker, CEO of the ABA, says retailers have accepted Amazon and Book Depository have the right to set up shop in Australia, but the ABA wants to ensure “offshore retailers are paying their fair share of tax at the same rate as Australian bookshops, online and physical, large and small, chain and independent”.

“We also expect them to do the right thing, as offshore suppliers like major overseas distributor Baker and Taylor does, pay GST on any purchase by an Australian consumer, wherever they are located. To do otherwise is tax avoidance, pure and simple.

“We also hope the government and the taxation office will ensure that that Amazon and Book Depository do not pay their profits into offshore tax havens to avoid paying tax in Australia, as has been their practice globally,” Becker said.

The policy of  Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) is that all sales made from within Australia must attract GST, whether that is online or from a traditional bricks and mortar business.

Jon Page, a past President of the ABA and MD of Pages & Pages Booksellers and online seller, Boomerang, says he would welcome Amazon and Book Depository setting up a warehouse in Australia because that would be a “fair fight”.

“This is not a fair fight. This is an example of pure greed, cowardice, and business without responsibility. In light of not only their blatant tax evasion but also the terrible conditions Amazon workers have around the world and the conditions Amazon already dictate to publishers over terms of trade I find it truly unfathomable that any publisher would wish to get into bed with them.”

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