The governments, in general, have several instruments for controlling the demand and supply side dynamics in a market, a crucial one of such instruments being the taxation systems, which have immense significance in the aspects of manipulating the demand and supply side activities and outcomes (Castanheira, Nicodème and Profeta 2012). In this context, this section of the assignment, summarises the assertions of the article, “Turnbull’s online shopping tax punishes Aussie consumers: How to avoid the Amazon rip-of”, which discusses the recent imposition of online shopping GST by the government of the Australia and the consequent retaliation from one of the largest multinational retail companies, the Amazon, in the concerned country (News.com.au 2018).
As the concerned article highlights, Amazon, has announced the launching of its local website for the Australian customers from July 1, 2018, post which the Australian shoppers will not be able to order from the international online forum of the company and will have to use the local website for ordering products within the domestic boundary of the country, which in turn, has much lesser options of products, priced much higher than the international standards. The reason behind such action taken by Amazon, as cited by the concerned article, can be seen to be the changes in the tax laws, taking place in Australia, in the last few years, which primarily the announcement of the imposition of the new GST law on the online shopping activities (Eccleston, Warren and Woolley 2013). As per the announcement of the government, the online GST law requires the retailers to collect taxes from the customers for any kind of product bought from online shopping websites, irrespective of the valuation of the products (the old laws required collection of the GST, for only those products whose prices are more than $1000) (Ato.gov.au 2018). The primary intention of the government of the country, behind the implementation of the online shopping GST, as stated by the article, was that of collection of higher revenues (estimated to be 300 million dollars), which the government targeted to invest in education and other development activities in the country, as can be shown with the help of the following figure
Figure 1: Imposition of tax in a market
(Source: As created by the author)
However, the implications of the imposition of the tax, as highlighted by the article, can be seen to be mostly negative, especially on part of the customers, who are subjected to the burden of the tax as well as the negative retaliations of the same, in the form of the restrictive policies on part of the companies like that of Amazon, with the threat of the step being adopted by other shopping platforms like Macy’s, ASOS, Nordstrom and others. Due to the withdrawal of the international site of Amazon, the customers are forced to buy from the local website, where the prices of the products are considerably higher and the options are also much less than those in the international site (Sinning and Hasan 2016).
On one hand, some people can be seen to be supporting this policy, in the sense that multinational companies need to pay fair share of taxes as otherwise they can gain unfair competitive advantage on the local retailers (Ostry, Berg and Tsangarides 2014). However, it can also be seen that the implementation of such a tax did not increase the revenue generation of the government or the efficiencies of the domestic retailers, who can be seen to be selling products at much higher prices and also engaging in lobbying activities and experiencing productive activities (Barr 2012).
From the article, it can be inferred that the imposition of the new online shopping tax, by the government of Australia, in the recent period, although had the motive of increasing the overall societal welfare, revenue generation and the efficiency and competitiveness of the domestic retailers, none of the same actually happened and the law, instead, became taxing for the Australian customers and online shoppers.
2.The article taken into consideration, for the purpose of the concerned study, highlights the assertion of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, which argue that the imposition of the new online GST laws by the contemporary Australian government has brought negative implications for the customers, as they tend to suffer both in terms of much higher prices as well as lack of availability of larger number of options for different commodities, which can be seen to be enjoyed by customers in other parts of the world, who have access and freedom to shop from the international online shopping platforms (Apps and Rees 2013).
The assertions of the Alliance can be seen to be credible and valid as the implementation of the concerned tax can be seen to be leading to considerable negative implications on the market as a whole and on the consumers specifically. With the imposition of the online GST tax laws, for all types of commodities, irrespective of the prices, the cost of implementation of the taxes on the commodities, experienced by the online shopping platforms in the country can be seen to be considerably high, which poses the threat of many of such platforms leaving the market as a whole or adopting restrictive policies like that of Amazon, of launching local shopping platforms (Daley, McGannon and Hunter 2014). This in turn, can be seen to be stopping the Australian customers from accessing the more price and cost-efficient international retailers, thereby denying them greater options and more affordable prices.
On the other hand, the fall in the supply and the exit of the online software platforms has led to the increase in the market power of the local retailers. The presence of productive inefficiencies, burdened zonal laws as well as the lobbying activities of the local retailers can be seen to be reflected in the much higher prices of the products (as can be seen from the price levels of the products in the local website of Amazon), the prices being much higher than the price levels offered by the international retailers, inclusive of the shipping fees.
The effects of the same on the local customers can be seen as follows, with the help of the conceptual framework of economics, especially the demand-supply dynamics:
Figure 2: Implications of online shopping GST on the consumers
(Source: As created by the author)
The above figure shows that with the imposition of the tax and the exist of the online shopping platforms and international retailers, the supply of the products decreases (thereby denying the Australian customers access to more options for commodities) and the demand for the products remaining the same, the prices of the products also increase in the market (Dalton 2013). Thus, from above figure and discussion, in the light of the conceptual and theoretical framework of economics, it can be seen that the assertions put forward by the concerned article, in the sense that the Australian customers have been the ones who are punished by the new online shopping tax imposed by the government of the country, in the recent period, holds to be true. This is because as a consequence of the imposition of the said tax, the customers can be seen to be losing both in terms of high prices as well as in terms of low availability of products (Walras 2013).
3.Rationale for online shopping platforms
The online shopping platforms have been coming into existence and have been gaining considerable popularity in the contemporary global scenario, with more and more people gaining access to internet and using such shopping platforms. Much of the increasing popularity and usage of such online shopping platforms can be attributed to the increasing integration and interconnectedness of the global business frameworks and the prominence of global marketplaces (Jiang, Yang and Jun 2013). The technological innovations can also be seen to be contributing in the same, by making e-commerce hugely popular and increasing the number of options for the customers (both domestic and international retailers of different products) and the clientele for the businesses in the global market scenario. In this context, the primary rationales behind the creation of these increasingly popular online shopping platforms, are as follows:
New markets and clienteles- The most significant rationale behind the creation of the online shopping platforms is that it leads to creation of new markets (both domestic and international) for the producers as well as more options for the consumers. This in turn leads to a more competitive framework, which leads to allocative as well as productive efficiencies, by removing the domestic demand and supply bottlenecks (Laudon and Traver 2013).
Lesser number of middlemen- The online shopping platforms facilitates direct interactions and transactions between the buyers and the sellers, thereby reducing the number of intermediaries or middlemen within the process, which in turn leads to the reduction in their fees and profits (which can be termed as deadweight loss in terms of economics) and leads to increase in the welfare of both the consumers as well as the producers (Holmes, Hsu and Lee 2014).
Transparency- Another rationale behind the creation of such online shopping platforms is the fact that due to free flow of information and competition among the sellers, there exists price transparency in such shopping platforms, which in turn leads to increase in welfare of both the customers and the retailers.
Market efficiencies from online shopping platforms
In this context, as can be seen from the rationales behind the creation of the online shopping platforms, the same contributes in increasing the efficiencies of the market, which can be explained with the help of the theoretical frameworks of economics. In economics, a market is said to be efficient when the resources are allocated optimally and the production is maximised and also when the welfare of all the participants in the markets are maximised. In such a situation, a person cannot increase his or her welfare without decreasing the welfare of another person (Färe, Grosskopf and Lovell 2013). The online shopping platforms, in this scenario, can be seen to be contributing to the market efficiencies in the following manners:
In the absence of such platforms, there may arise situations of excess supply or excess demand in the domestic markets, thereby creating either supply or demand bottlenecks, the impacts of which can be detrimental for the producers or the customers, as can be shown with the help of the following figure:
Figure 3: Market dynamics
(Source: As created by the author)
In presence of excess demand, the prices increase adversely affecting the customers, while in the presence of excess supply and low-price levels, the retailers suffer. The online shopping platform, by opening the international markets, reduce these bottlenecks, thereby increasing the allocative efficiency and bringing the markets to equilibrium (Varian 2014).
In the absence of such platforms and in the instances of higher reliance on local retailers, there remains scopes for the same to earn supernormal profits, due to increased market power and lesser competitions (Bauer 2018). However, online shopping platform, by involving sellers from all parts of the globe, increase the level of competition among them, which in turn reduces their chances of gaining profits above marginal costs, thereby making the market more efficient, both in terms of productive efficiency and allocative efficiency, as is generally seen in competitive markets:
Figure 4: Competitive Market Efficiency (P=MR=MC in equilibrium)
(Source: As created by the author)
All these factors cumulatively indicate towards the fact that the creation and increasing usage of online shopping platforms can lead to increase in the level of efficiencies in the markets.
4.Contribution of the new tax in efficiencies of the local retailers
The online shopping tax implemented by the Australian Government, in the recent periods, can be seen to be imposed with the primary objectives of increasing the level of welfare of the domestic retailers in the country, apart from higher revenue generation for the government. The working notion behind the same, has been that with the implementation of such taxes, the foreign multinational shopping platforms would have to pay their share of taxes, which in turn would prevent them to enjoy unfair competitive advantages over the domestic retailers (Isac, Bulavsky and Kalashnikov 2013). With the unfair competition being ruled out, in a generalised scenario, the domestic sellers are expected to enjoy greater demands and market share, which in turn are expected to make them more cost efficient (as they are expected to enjoy expansion and economies of scale in their productive activities).
However, the same is not seen to be happening in Australian markets, in the contemporary periods, with the imposition of the online shopping tax by the government of the concerned country, as can be from the assertions of the article taken into consideration. On one hand, the imposition of the concerned tax, is not seen to be helping the government to achieve its target revenue collection from the same. On the other hand, the products offered by the domestic retailers can be seen to be hugely overpriced as compared to the prices of the similar products offered by the international retailers (even including the delivery or shipping fees). This in turn, indicates towards the fact that the imposition of the concerned tax, has not helped in increasing the level of efficiencies of the domestic retailers. The primary reasons behind the same, are the presence of stringent zoning laws, higher production costs (including overhead costs and labour costs), less production efficiencies as well as the strict labour regulations in Australia (Hill et al. 2013).
Changes in the surplus of the economy due to imposition of shopping tax
The new online shopping tax, in the recent policy framework of the government of Australia, can be termed as an indirect tax, which is collected by the retailers from the customers for the government. The implementation of this tax, can be seen to influencing the changes in the surplus of the economy, as a whole, in the following way:
Figure 5: Impacts of tax on the economy’s surplus
(Source: As created by the author)
With the imposition of the online shopping tax:
Thus, it is evident that with the imposition of online shopping tax, in spite of the creation of government revenue, both the producer surplus and also the consumer surplus decrease and there also occurs a considerable amount of deadweight loss in the economy, which in turn indicates towards the fact that the concerned tax imposition leads to a fall in the overall economic surplus from (X+Y+G+Z+P+E) to (X+Y+Z+P), including the government revenue (Bös 2014).
5.In the recent years, the online shopping tax can be seen to be imposed by the government of Australia, with the objective of making the multinational retail giants pay proper taxes to the government of the country, for operating within the geographical domain of the same. This is, in turn, expected to reduce the unfair advantage which these companies tend to enjoy over the domestic retailers, thereby decreasing the profitability and competitiveness as well as the level of efficiencies of the latter (News.com.au 2018). However, with the imposition of the said tax, the online shopping platforms in the country have the chance of leaving the market or of that of decreasing their activities following the footsteps of Amazon. The effects of the same, can differ across time, as shown below:
Effects in the short run
Implementation of the online shopping tax in the country, being attached with huge costs of implementation of the same, on part of the online shopping platforms, in the short run, these platforms are expected to exit from the market, thereby leaving the market in the hands of the domestic retailers. Due to the absence of other alternatives, the reliance of the domestic customers, on the local retailers, is also expected to increase. However, in the short run, the domestic retailers cannot increase the supply of their commodities as per the level of demand (Bös 2014). This, along with the increased market power of the domestic retailers, is expected to reduce the short run supply and also make the short run supply curve less elastic, the effects of which can be seen as follows:
Figure 6: Short run impacts of the tax
(Source: As created by the author)
This, in turn, is expected to reduce the quantity supplied of the products and also increase the price of the same, the demand remaining the same.
Effects in the long run
In the long run, however, due to the presence of high price levels for the products, more supplier is expected to be attracted in the markets and the existing retailers are also expected to increase their supply, which in turn, are expected to shift the supply curve rightwards and also make the supply curve more elastic due to presence of a greater number of sellers:
Figure 7: Long run impacts of tax
(Source: As created by the author)
Thus, in the long run, the quantity of products supplied in the economy is expected to increase along with a fall in the price levels of the same, due to increase in the supply as well as due to a more elastic supply curve for the products (Rader 2014).
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News.com.au 2018. ‘Online shopping tax punishes Aussie consumers’. [online] NewsComAu. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/turnbulls-online-shopping-tax-punishes-aussie-consumers-how-to-avoid-the-amazon-ripoff/news-story/a9fc27c89f4f9c8ad933c34551e463df [Accessed 30 Aug. 2018].
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