By Aimee Chanthadavong

Shopping Centre Council of Australia (SCCA) chairman Steven Sewell has urged the federal government to reduce the $1,000 GST low value threshold on imported goods.

This comes in the wake of last week’s retail trade figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which showed the amount of goods that were purchased and that fall below the $1,000 low value threshold is higher than previously estimated.

"No-one is arguing that Australians should be prevented from buying online, whether from domestic or overseas suppliers," Sewell said.

"This additional competition benefits everyone by causing all of us who work in the retailing industry to lift our game in the never-ending challenge of attracting customers. The integration of online retailing and physical retailing is an example of this."

"But there needs to be a level playing field so that Australian retailers – including Australian online retailers – are competing on the same terms as their overseas competitors.”

Sewell said the ABS had estimated that around $630 million is now being lost in GST revenue each year.

"This is money that should be flowing to our state and territory governments to help build and run our schools, hospitals and other services that Australians need and expect."

"The lost revenue also means other state taxes are being increased in order to provide these services. Retailers and retail property owners in Victoria have just had an example of this with the new property-based fire services levy which has seen cost increases of around 400 per cent.”

In an independent review by the Low Value Parcel Processing Taskforce, it was recommended the current low-value import threshold should be reduced and halved almost immediately, with no change needed to either GST laws or customs arrangements. The review panel also found the existing system with its $1,000 threshold was being abused.

A final response to the Taskforce report, outlining the outcomes of these processes, will be released in 2013.