News & Insights

New GST Rules for Wash Countertrades

Tax Development Dec 07, 2016

The fruit of innovation in today’s global market is most often derived from collaborative efforts between businesses that create something in an environment of trust and sharing.  Many of these collaborations necessarily involve the sharing of concepts, technology, and resources.  Unfortunately, typical business arrangements accommodating these innovations usually involved unwanted GST burdens, having to account for GST even where there is no net GST impact.  Parties had to agree on valuations, issue tax invoices and account for the GST.  A software company providing 12 months of development time by one of their development team’s time to a medical research company in return for access to research data involves no payment of money. This presumes that each company believes that, in commercial terms, the value of what they are supplying is equal to what they are getting in return.  Recognising the GST compliance burden and additional time and cost involved in obtaining market valuations of the commodities traded, the Australian Taxation Office issued a Practical Compliance Guideline (PCG 2016/18: https://www.ato.gov.au/law/view/document?DocID=COG/PCG201618/NAT/ATO/00001&PiT=99991231235958) on 18 November 2016 stipulating that compliance action will not be taken on these arm's-length transactions where each party’s trade involves a fully taxable supply and an entitlement to a full input tax credit on the acquisition.  Parties can agree that the GST-inclusive market value of the countertrade supplies are equal or, in the case where there is no such agreement, each party’s net GST impact is neutral because their GST liability on their taxable supply equals the full input tax credit on their acquisition—a practical solution to what was a practical problem.