Industry says bill seeking to introduce sharing economy reporting regime is too broad

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The Australian government is currently considering a bill to amend tax laws to require operators of electronic platforms to provide information on transactions made through their platforms to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The legislation was drafted following a recommendation made by the Treasury’s Black Economy Task Force for the introduction of a sharing economy reporting regime. The working group in 2017 found that without a reporting regime in place, it would be difficult for the ATO to obtain information on the compliance of sharing economy participants unless targeted audits are used. .

The bill, presented to parliament at the end of last month, is currently under consideration by the Economic Legislation Committee.

Appearing before this committee on Wednesday afternoon, the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) – which represents tech giants such as Atlassian, Canva, Google and Microsoft – said the bill currently has too much scope despite the fact that he recognized that he supported the need for such a reporting regime.

The bill, as currently drafted, would apply to “electronic platforms” where services are offered and a buyer accepts and makes payment for that service.

According to TCA CEO and founder Ashley Moreland, this application of the bill’s reporting requirements is too broad and needs further clarification.

“To illustrate the scope of this definition, it includes appointment booking engines for medical practices. appointment, this was a key tool used by central government during the pandemic to ensure patients could find telehealth services in their area, ”Moreland said.

“Today, under the proposed legislation, this platform would be caught and that means any GPS or medical service provider offering services through this platform would then be required by the platform operator to report very detailed and sensitive information, [a patient’s] full name, date of birth, bank details, email address, net and gross income. ”

Moreland added that the whistleblowing regime needed to be better targeted to avoid collecting data on users who “pose little or no risk,” claiming that almost everyone who makes money on Airtasker – one of its members – were not earning enough to meet the GST registration threshold.

She warned that these additional reporting requirements for certain categories of electronic platforms could be too onerous and potentially create a scenario similar to the robodebt scandal.

“As we have seen with the collection of data around JobKeeper application forms, which resulted in overestimation of clients by billions of dollars, user error when entering data into these forms didn’t is not uncommon and it can really affect data quality and the risk of errors and analysis, ”she said.

“Because as robodebt has demonstrated, when you don’t get the data entry, data matching and analysis right, you can produce results that miscalculate a person’s income and therefore their debt. ”

To address these concerns, the TCA recommended in its submission to the government that it meet with industry to discuss the design elements and implementation of the reporting regime, including whether certain categories of electronic platforms should be exempt from the regime. declaration.

Libby Hay, head of corporate affairs at Deliveroo, shared a similar sentiment, telling the committee that the scope of the bill’s reporting regime was too broad and would allow Deliveroo to cover onerous costs due to administrative requirements. additional resulting from it.

Hay said the reporting regime should only apply to companies operating under a sharing economy model, saying Deliveroo operates under a different model.

She claimed that Deliveroo operates under a gig economy model, which involves freelancers and independent contractors, while a sharing economy “refers to an economy based on sharing, acquiring and providing services. via the facilitation of an online platform “. For this reason, Hay said the ATO would already have the tax information of its food deliverers as they are registered for GST reporting.

“So [the Bill] coming to us would almost double that request for information because this information is already available, ”another Deliveroo representative told the committee.

In its submission to the committee, Deliveroo added that it currently has no insight into the GST treatment of its partners’ products.

“The GST treatment of their products is complex given the rules for the GST rate on food and beverages,” Deliveroo wrote.

“If we were to collect this data, it would put us at the mercy of the restaurants for completing this information completely and accurately and would strain our business relationships by trying to enforce this.”

When asked if Deliveroo provides tax assistance to its passengers and partner restaurants, Hay told the committee it’s not because they are independent contractors or separate businesses.

In June, the ATO said it had raised A $ 6.3 billion in pledges, A $ 3.5 billion in fundraising and about A $ 1.1 billion of what it called “broader income effects” in those considered “public groups” since its task force on tax evasion. was established in 2016.

But as a result of these efforts to thwart tax evasion by multinational organizations, the ATO has said it is now short of big files.

“Australia is a relatively small place, there are relatively few companies – because our strategy has not been just to collect taxes, but to change future behavior and ensure future compliance, we are in sort of short of big cases, “ATO said at the time the second commissioner of the customer engagement group, Jeremy Hirschhorn.

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