The budget night announcement that caught even the ATO off guard, was that GST on new residential properties will need to be remitted to the ATO at settlement. Currently the Developer has the use of the not insignificant cash from GST collected on new property sales - until such time that they are required to lodge their Business Activity Statement and claim the matching input credits that have been outlaid in the same period - requiring only a net payment to be made.
The impact on Developer's cashflow will be huge - and the ATO will be hanging on to a significant amount of their cash until they can lodge their BAS and claim back a refund of the overpaid GST.
For developers who apply the Margin Scheme - there could be a requirement to remit GST they aren't even liable to pay, if they don't want to be disclosing their Margin on the sale.
The measure was introduced to crack down on those few that get into financial difficulty and the ATO misses out on the GST after the secured creditors take their share. Once again the Government has introduced a sledgehammer approach that will impact everyone to capture the minority of wrongdoers.
The ATO are in talks currently about how to best implement and it will be interesting to see if the proposed start date goes ahead. With the staggered start of electronic conveyancing across the various states, it would make sense if any start date is deferred until that is in place across the board - also giving the ATO a better time to prepare a more practical approach.
The government is concerned there is a risk to GST revenue where developers claim input tax credits during the life of a project, but go into liquidation on the completion of a project leaving unpaid GST liabilities owing to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). By implementing this measure the government aims to increase GST revenue collections by $660 million over the next four years. If an obligation is placed on a purchaser to withhold any GST liability on a developer’s supply of new residential premises then this will have an impact on the developer’s cash on hand. Currently, a developer would receive sale proceeds and potentially have up to four months before any GST component is required to be remitted to the ATO. Accordingly, developers will need to consider the impact the changes will have on their working capital.