Amazon bars Australians from shopping on its non-Aussie sites to put pressure on the government to rescind tax rule

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Amazon clearly sees this as the thin edge of the wedge, though, and doesn’t want to get in a position of having to collect variable rates of tax depending on the shipping address for, say, 180 countries (or even thousands of states and provinces with their own VATs).

Goodness! Why, it would take a computer to keep up with all those laws!


Question: Are Australians being asked to pay sales/VAT tax in outgoing countries and Australia, or just one? Often when I order something from the UK there’s VAT, but I don’t get dinged by my state sales tax.


This is a good example of an externality. Australia wants to benefit from the collection of a tax, but they’re not willing to do the work themselves, so they pass a law that someone else has to do it for them. The ‘someone else’ does not benefit from this collection, but must expend funds to perform the collection.

The comment from Mr. Morrison is a nice falicy. “They’re a big company, so they should do anything we ask.”

Sorry, Australia, but this is what’s called “unintended consequences”. You pass a law hoping for a specific outcome, but that outcome doesn’t happen. You can either rail against reality or find some more rational way to deal with the undesired outcome. I don’t see how whining about Jeff Bezos’s income has much to do with it.

I’m curious what online retailers are working with Australia on this. The source article doesn’t say.

Also important to note is that the opposition party orignally suggested that they implement the tax via the shipping companies that actually do the importing as there are far fewer of these and would be easier to regulate. Choosing to implement the tax on the vendor side means that any small shop that chooses not to implement the tax will provide simple ways for Austrialians to get around the tax–and putting the vendors who are compliant with collections at a disadvantage. The way to catch that? Have the shippers do it. Then there are the reshippers who can be used to bypass the tax as well. The way to catch that? Have the shippers do it.

So, they were told that implementing the tax this was was a bad idea and that they should implement it via the importing/shipping companies. For some reason they chose the more problematic path.


Meanwhile, here in the States: Rahm Emanuel attempts to whore out Chicago to Amazon tax-free, emails a non-Bezos exec “Who’s your daddy?”


Have a look at Value Added Tax and see if you can make sense of it.

For those asserting the ‘it’s just computer code’, please realize how complex this tax system is for just one country and then multiply that by 190 or so–plus ongoing changes as laws change.

I can see how a business in a country can reasonably be expected to implement the tax laws of that country. But that’s not the situation here. Amazon Australia is implementing all the appropriate taxes on their Australian purchases. At issue here is the non-Australian Amazon stores.


What is motivating the big tech companies to develop AI isn’t self-driving cars or marketing analytics, but trying to figure out the damn tax codes.


My company acquired an Australian concern. Moving a lot of their processes to the US was motivated in part by the GST. Similar to VAT in Europe, in a number of cases we pay that tax up front and can claim it back later (depending on the circumstances). One can argue this is all busywork.

However, the Amazon issue is retail sales and can be automated. Cory put it nicely:

Governments can and should call BS on Amazon for this. It’s a smokescreen. Much smaller outfits are paying for software that does precisely this, and those compliant companies are losing sales to Amazon where Amazon doesn’t apply the tax.

Check out Avalara which has mainstream, reliable tax software. Because they employ geocoding, their customers may have added tasks toward GDPR compliance.


Collecting taxes based on shipping address seems perfectly reasonable to me. Amazon already does that here in the U.S., all the way down the zip code. I pay 9.75% based on my zip code. Nearby folks a zip code over pay less (9.25%) because they’re technically outside the border of my city so they’re subject only to the state and county portions.

Collecting sales tax and VAT is a cost of doing business in a jurisdiction. If you don’t want to deal with it somewhere, then don’t sell to people in that jurisdiction.


And apparently they took your advice.


Amazon is right when it says that Australian customers will just shop at places that offer cheaper prices because they don’t collect GST. This will be a never-ending game of whack-a-mole for a government that has already demonstrated that it doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to pretty much everything and never gives any department enough money to do its job.


I don’t really get the fuss about all of this. Here in Canada, if we order from we pay the GST/HST at time of purchase. If we order from, we pay the GST/HST to the shipping agency - Fedex, UPS, Canada Post, etc upon delivery. No big deal, I get my product, and the Feds still get their tax. It seems to be a system that works, and it seems that it could have worked for the Aussies as well.


Yep, and that was what the opposition government was advocating.

@aidtopia, facepalm

Uh, yeah? That’s how basically all VAT/GST type taxes work. Also how payroll tax works. And petrol taxes and … well … all tax. What was your point again?

Oh FFS. Not another special snowflake who lives on an island they built from the sweat of their own brow, lives in a house they built with congealed sweat, eats only food they grew themselves, drives a self made car on self made roads, and educated themselves on how to do all that using nothing but first principles?

Amazon benefits from trading in Australia. That’s WHY they trade in Australia (although I suspect book sales are probably lower there than most other places :wink: ). If they are operating in a country - any country - then they can fucking pay for the privilege.


No, it’s not. Businesses in a country collect VAT/GST for residents of it. Just like Amazon Australia is doing. Businesses in other countries don’t. It’s collected upon import by the importer. Australia chose not to do that. So, my point is Australia chose to do something different and strange and put the burden of collecting their taxes on someone else who owes no obligation to them.

Nice, can’t refute the arguement, attack the speaker. Throw in a strawman and start a falicy bonfire. If anyone is a ‘special snowflake’, it’s Australia thinking that their laws can tell people not in their country what to do.

Amazon Australia does trade in Australia and collects all applicable taxes. That’s not at issue. Amazon from other countries has chosen not to deal with Australia because they don’t think that the cost of performing this extra accounting is worth it for the very small margin business they work in.

An, no, these other Amazon markets don’t operate in Australia and shouldn’t be subject to its laws.

Please try to stick to the topic. It’s the non-Australian Amazon which has chosen not to do business with Australian citizens. So, they’re not going to pay for that privilege.


Extraterritorial jurisdiction is a thing. You should look it up. The US is an especially vigorous proponent of it.

Well, no. Not now. Not since this hissy fit.


Its not just Amazon, its all overseas businesses that will require us Aussies to pay GST (VAT) on purchases we make online. Most of us do not have a huge problem with this.

The underlying issue here is a lot of us feel that Amazon actually just wants us to use the AU Amazon store. It has nothing to do with the tax. That is just the excuse they need to force us to use their Australian store. I mean, we will have to pay 10% GST (VAT) on the Australia store anyway, so obviously adding tax is within their ability.

The thing is, the Australia Amazon store sucks. It is not competitive with local online stores. And it does not have the large range of items that the US Amazon store has. And a lot of the things you can buy from the AU store are over priced compared to the same items in the US store. Even if Amazon US was charging us the 10% GST plus Shipping from the US, in some cases it would still be cheaper to buy from Amazon USA than it would be to buy locally or from Amazon Australia. Which is nuts. And savvy shoppers already know how to circumvent the issue of accessing Amazing US. Its certainly not hard to place an order on the US site get it sent to a US shipping service and then have it sent to Australia from there.


I’m familiar with it. It also doesn’t even remotely cover what you’re talking about. Go take a look: Extraterritorial Jurisdiction

Well, at least we share the same opinion of the Austrilian parliament.

If they think that the sales they would get from Amazon sites are worth paying the tax, then eventually they will come around. If not, not. I’m fine with it either way.

What is interesting is this quote from a huge Australian retail firm:

“They think they have the right to pay no tax in Australia,” Harvey Norman’s executive chairman Gerry Harvey said on Thursday of Amazon’s decision to “blacklist” the country. They’ve done the dirty on the government. They’ve done the dirty on the public.”

I would think that Mr. Harvey would be delighted to have Amazon greatly restrict its offering to Australians.

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Boo freaking hoo. If you want to impose a special tax, you can expect to have to use a special portal in order to support the collection of that special tax. If you don’t like that portal, dont use it. If you think the portals prices are too high, then you have identified a potential marketplace which you are free to exploit.

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