FutureFive NZ - Kiwis rebel against online GST proposals

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Kiwis rebel against online GST proposals

New Zealanders have hit out over government proposals to review taxing overseas purchases online, a move which has been welcomed by retailers.

Despite only being in the early stages of discussion, Kiwis have reacted strongly to any plans to add GST payments to online overseas transactions, with one branding the idea "ridiculous."

"It makes you question whether buying online is the best alternative," queries Aucklander Rob Stewart.

"As usual, the government always finds a way to tax the public on everything - it's ridiculous."

Since news of the GST debate broke earlier today, both sides of the industry have spoken, with mixed reactions on either side.

New Zealand Retailers Association CEO John Albertson added his opinion to the mix, believing fairness should prevail in the end.

"It's often quoted that some New Zealand retailers aren't competitive, it's far cheaper to buy overseas, etc," he said, acknowledging retailers would be happy with the change.

"Well in some product categories that may well be true, but let's start from the same starting point where we're both paying GST."

Albertson argues that if you're running a website in New Zealand, and selling online in New Zealand, you're paying GST.

"It's not a matter of bricks and mortar versus online, it's actually within New Zealand versus outside of New Zealand."

"It is not about a grab for domestic retailers. It is all about fairness and equity,"

Yet the proposal has been questioned by Customs Minister Maurice Williamson, who despite appreciating the validity of the idea, believes the plan is near-on impossible to implement.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Williamson said: "I think they've got a valid point but we do not want to put a regime in place that puts a whole lot of extra cost and hassle to the consumer.

"You could be bringing in a $10 item and have to go to the airport to fill out forms and pay your GST and so on and that would just make a nonsense of it."

With a technology background however, Williamson struggled to see how it would work.

"It would be great if we had some easy mechanism to charge it against credit card transactions but that would mean you'd have to identify whether the person was actually in New Zealand at the time," he said.

"There will be all sorts of digital payment systems in the future like digital money and PayPal and digital coin payment systems - how would you track those?"

With consumers, retailers and government ministers all debating the topic intensely, what are your opinions on plans to add GST to online purchases? Is it a fair move? Should consumers be annoyed? Tell us your thoughts below

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