What am I reading today? 25 April 2017

Shelves of books in Stockholm library
What am I reading today?

Here are some of the stories that caught my attention in the past week or so:

Update on the “Amazon.com Tax” and “Netflix Tax” changes to Australian GST

Further to my previous article, on 16 February 2017 the Commonwealth Government introduced a bill to Parliament that seeks to change the law to extend the Australian GST to so-called “low value” imports (under $1,000) of physical goods, from 1 July 20172018*.

The first Senate hearings into the Bill were held on 21 April. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Senate has heard from vendors and platforms such as eBay, Alibaba and Amazon, and even the transportation & logistics companies, that none

of whom want the administrative burden (cost and complexity) of having to determine whether and how much GST they need to collect on behalf of overseas retailers.

The “vendor registration model” for low-value goods is in line with the one for the Government’s proposed ‘Netflix Tax’. That would require offshore vendors to register and account for GST on the supply of things other than goods and real property to Australian consumers, also from 1 July 2017.

Meanwhile, the ATO will not rule out using its own website blocking powers to enforce GST collection by preventing Australian customers from visiting those retailers or platforms. Unless this is resolved, it looks as though [as usual?] the Australian consumer will suffer.

* On 26 June 2017, Parliament passed the Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Act 2017 (Cth) to remove the “low value goods exemption” (under Australia’s GST legislation) on goods imported into Australia, with effect from 1 July 2018. This note was updated 16 August 2017 to reflect this change.

Broadband and Internet

Net neutrality has taken a big step forward in Canada, with the CRTC ruling against Videotron’s zero-rated music streaming service, and releasing a 4-point code for evaluating whether a service is net-neutral. Michael Geist and Ars Technica each have articles discussing the implications of the CRTC decision.


On the privacy and online tracking front, US consumers are suing Bose for allegedly tracking and selling the listening habits of its headphone users.

Similarly, the newsletter unsubscribe service Unroll.me is selling its users’ information. In November 2014, market research company Slice Intelligence acquired Unroll.me. That purchase seems to have gone unnoticed by most users until this week, after the NY Times revealed that Slice had analysed Lyft receipt data in the inboxes of Unroll.me users, and on-sold the aggregate data to Lyft’s competitor, Uber.