Goods and services tax (GST)
The federal government levies GST at a rate of 10% and distributes the revenue to state governments. The GST is a value-added tax (VAT) applied at each level in the manufacturing and marketing chain and applies to most goods and services, with registered suppliers getting credits for GST on inputs acquired to make taxable supplies.
Food, with some significant exceptions; exports; most health, medical, and educational supplies; and some other supplies are 'GST-free' (the equivalent of 'zero-rated' in other VAT jurisdictions) and so not subject to GST. A registered supplier of a GST-free supply can recover relevant input tax credits, although the supply is not taxable.
Residential rents, the second or later supply of residential premises, most financial supplies, and some other supplies are 'input-taxed' ('exempt' in other VAT jurisdictions) and are not subject to GST. However, the supplier cannot recover relevant input tax credits, except that financial suppliers may obtain a reduced input tax credit of 75% of the GST on the acquisition of certain services.
Health insurance is GST-free. Life insurance is input-taxed. General insurance is taxed. Reverse charges may apply to services or rights supplied from offshore, where the recipient is registered or required to be registered, and uses the supply solely or partly for a non-creditable supply.
GST will apply to cross-border supplies of digital products and services imported by Australian consumers from 1 July 2017. This measure ensures that digital products and other imported services supplied to Australian consumers by foreign entities are subject to the GST. Non-resident suppliers will be required to register, collect, and remit GST on the digital products and services that they provide to Australian consumers.
GST rules that apply from 1 October 2016 better target the way Australia's GST rules apply to all cross-border supplies that involve non-resident entities. These changes operate to ensure that non-resident businesses do not have to engage in Australia’s GST system unnecessarily, including switching off the GST liability for certain supplies between non-residents and extending the GST-free rules to certain supplies made to non-residents.
From 1 July 2017, there is no longer double taxation of digital currencies by ensuring that supplies of digital currency receive equivalent GST treatment to supplies of money.
From 1 July 2018, GST will be payable on certain supplies of low value goods (valued at AUD 1,000 or less) that are purchased by consumers and are imported into Australia.
Wine equalisation tax (WET)
The federal government levies WET at the wholesale level at a rate of 29%, in addition to 10% GST, which is calculated on the price including the WET, and it applies to wine from grapes, fruit and certain vegetables, mead, and sake. Retailers do not receive an input tax credit for WET. A rebate is available to a wine producer of 29% of the wholesale price (excluding WET or GST) for wholesale sales, and of 29% of the notional wholesale selling price for retail sales and applications for own use (up to a maximum of AUD 500,000).
Luxury car tax
The luxury car tax is levied by the federal government at the rate of 33% of the value of the car that exceeds the luxury car tax threshold (AUD 75,526 for fuel-efficient vehicles and AUD 65,094 for other vehicles in the 2017/18 financial year) and is payable on the GST-exclusive value above the threshold. No input tax credit is available for luxury car tax, regardless of whether the car is used for business or private purposes.
Imports into Australia are subject to duties under the Australian Customs Tariff. The top duty rate is 5%.
Australia currently has comprehensive free trade agreements with Chile, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States. In addition, a regional free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asian nations progressively eliminates all barriers to trade in goods, services, and investments. Australia has also concluded negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).
Excise duties are imposed at high levels on beer, spirits, liqueurs, tobacco, cigarettes, and petroleum products. Excise rates for tobacco, alcohol, and fuel are indexed bi-annually based on movements in the consumer price index (CPI). Some examples of current excise rates include:
- Beer not exceeding 3% by volume of alcohol packaged in an individual container not exceeding 48 litres: AUD 41.95 per litre of alcohol calculated on that alcohol content by which the percentage by volume of alcohol of the goods exceeds 1.15.
- Tobacco in stick form not exceeding in weight 0.8 grams per stick of actual tobacco content: AUD 0.69858 per stick.
- Petroleum condensate, crude petroleum oil, and diesel: AUD 0.403 per litre.
- Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), other than LPG exempted from excise duty: AUD 0.132 per litre.
A fuel tax credit system provides a credit for fuel tax (excise or customs duty) that is included in the price of taxable fuel. Broadly, credits are available to entities using fuel in their business and to households using fuel for domestic electricity generation and heating.
All states and territories (except the Northern Territory) impose a tax based on the unimproved capital value of land. In general, the principal place of residence and land used for primary production is exempt from land tax.
All states and territories impose a stamp duty on a wide variety of transactions at different rates. All jurisdictions impose a stamp duty on real estate conveyances, but most exempt conveyances of goods (not associated with other property) from stamp duty. The imposition of duty on share transfers involving unlisted entities differs from state to state. Corporate reconstruction exemptions are available. Advice from a stamp duty specialist should usually be obtained where substantial stamp duty may be imposed because the amount of duty may depend on the form of the transaction.
Fringe benefits tax (FBT)
As of 1 April 2017, the federal government levies FBT on employers at the rate of 47% (previously 49%) on the 'grossed-up value' of non-salary and wages fringe benefits provided to employees (and/or the employee's associates) by the employer or associates. The grossing-up of the value ensures tax neutrality between providing benefits and cash remuneration. FBT generally is deductible for income tax purposes. There are some exemptions from FBT, including some minor benefits, remote area housing in certain circumstances, and specified relocation costs. In addition, there are some concessional valuation rules, in particular for motor vehicles and certain living-away-from-home benefits.
States and territories impose a tax on employers' payroll (broadly defined). The various jurisdictions have harmonised their payroll tax legislation, but some differences remain, particularly tax rates and the thresholds for exempting employers whose annual payroll is below a certain level, after taking into account grouping rules. For example, in New South Wales, the rate for the year ended 30 June 2018 is 5.45% with an annual exemption threshold of AUD 750,000. In Victoria, the general rate for the year ended 30 June 2018 is 4.85%, and the annual exemption threshold is AUD 625,000. A variety of rates and thresholds apply in other state and territory jurisdictions.
Superannuation guarantee levy
Legislation requires employers to contribute a certain percentage of an employee's earnings base, subject to limited exceptions, to a registered superannuation fund or retirement savings account on behalf of the employee. Failure to make these contributions will result in the employer being liable for a non-deductible superannuation guarantee charge.
The current superannuation guarantee percentage is 9.5% and will remain so until 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, the rate will increase to 10% and will progressively increase up to 12% from 1 July 2025.
No level of Australian government imposes a social security levy.
States impose taxes on insurance premiums, which may be substantial.
Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT)
PRRT currently applies to all petroleum projects in Australian offshore areas (or Commonwealth adjacent areas) other than production licences derived from the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea. It also applies to all Australian onshore and offshore oil and gas projects, other than the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea.
PRRT is applied to a 'project' or 'production licence area' at a rate of 40% of the taxable profits derived from the recovery of all petroleum in the project, including:
- crude oil
- shale oil
- sales gas
- natural gas
- LPG, and
The taxable profit of a project is calculated as follows:
Taxable profit = Assessable receipts - Deductible expenditure
Deductible expenditure broadly includes exploration expenditure, all project development, and operating expenditures.
PRRT is self-assessed by the relevant taxpayer. The taxpayer is, in most cases, required to give the Commissioner of Taxation a PRRT return for each PRRT year. PRRT is generally payable by quarterly instalments.
PRRT applies in addition to normal income tax. PRRT payments (including instalments) are, however, deductible for income tax purposes.
Local municipal taxes
Local taxes, including water, sewerage, and drainage charges, are levied based on the unimproved capital value of land and include a charge for usage (e.g. water usage).