The online marketplace has become one of the most popular web destinations due to the ample number of benefits that it provides. The online marketplaces use the advanced technologies and communications in the practice which is beneficial for the sellers and the customers. The aim of this paper is to answer a few questions related to a decision of the government of Australia to impose a tax on online shopping in order to save the local retailers of Australia. Using the case study and the principle of economies, the answers have been provided in the study.
The main message of this article is related to the activity of the e-commerce website Amazon corresponding to the changes in the policies of the Australian government headed by MR. Malcolm Turnbull. According to the government of Australia, the multinational companies are becoming a great threat to the domestic companies of the country. In addition to that the multinational e-commerce websites are also making a lot of money which is being taken to the source economy Alley and Emery (2017) Thus, the government implements an online GST that directs the company to collect taxes from the customers.
In compliance with the tax regulation, online e-commerce website Amazon has reacted with an increase in the price of most of the goods and the services. Weber (2017) stated that, as per the government regulations, the tax needs to be collected for products that are below $1000. Consequently, the effective prices of the goods and the services of Amazon have increased. For example, while a Key Board which costs $139 on the global website, it cost around $360 on the website of Australia. Additionally, the company has also reduced the number of products available on the website in order to be compliant with the new tax regulation of the country.
However, the article shows that the tax does not justify and fulfils the aims of the government. Neither does it benefits the domestic sellers nor does it increases the tax revenue of the government which was intended to be used for the services and the development of the domestic infrastructure. The treasurer in this context has stated that, if Amazon wants to leave the market they can as the country have efficient domestic producers to meet the demand of the market. However, Soska and Christin (2015) noted that there are other ways; the customers of the economy can still buy all the products of Amazon, having no influence on the tax collection of the government. The customers can use VPN services in order to get an IP of the USA and get most of the product delivered through the services of shipping companies. The prices of the shipped products will cost less even after paying the charges of the shipping company and the customs charges.
Hence, the paper says, the tax does not meet the objective of the government, rather the move punishes the Australian customers as they now have to spend more to have the same product. The paper also furnishes the fact that, the tax move by the government does not benefit the domestic players as well. This is due to the fact that customers can always import products from the home country of the multination company paying just the shipping charges and 10% customs duties.
The article states that the Australian Tax Payers Alliance said that this online shopping tax would punish the consumers as less choice will be there for the customers of the market. I agree with this statement of the Australian Tax Payers Alliance as the taxes can reduce the supply of goods and the services in the market of Australia (Rahayu and Day, 2015). These resulting changes in the supply schedule can not only increase the price of the goods and the services of the market, this can also reduce the choices available to the customers of Australia.
The statement of Australian Tax Payers Alliance can also be justified with the help of the economic theories such as the demand and supply theory. Two of the main elements of demand and supply theory is the supply and the demand schedules which lists the willingness to sell and wiliness to pay respectively (Mankiw 2015). According to the theory, as the prices of the goods and the services in the economy go up, more and more customers demand the product and hence there is a change along the demand curve. Similarly, the sellers of the market sell more when the price is high and sells less when the prices are low. Mankiw (2014) noted that any other external changes shift the curve altogether either to the right or to the left depending on the kind influence it has on the demand. For example, the government taxes increase the cost of operation of the sellers shifting the supply curve to the left side. This tax burden is then passed on to the customers of the customers in the market. According to Leong et al. (2016), the higher the elasticity of demand for the goods and the services less is the tax shared with the customers and vice versa.
Figure 1: The imposition of tax reduces the equilibrium quantity
(Source: Goodwin et al. 2015)
Thus, the implementation of the online GST can be easily explained through the taxation in the demand and supply schedule (Larson, 2018). The implementation of the online GST, in this case, increases the production cost of the sellers and hence the supply curve shifts to the left. The new equilibrium of the market depicts higher prices for the products and lower quantities. This lower quantities reduces the choices of the customers of Australia. Additionally, online shopping has become a regular product in the basket of consumer worldwide. Klassen et al. (2014) stated that the lower prices along with the other features of online shopping makes it more convenient for the customers. Thus, the elasticity of online purchase is not very high which can also intrigue the seller to pass on the tax burden to the customers in high amount.
The implementation of taxes, here, not only increases the price of the products, but it also reduces the equilibrium quantity available in the market (Kassaei et al. 2014). This means that, with an increase in the price levels, the option of products gets reduced leading to a problem for the customers of the market. Therefore, the theory of supply and demand and the impacts of taxation on the equilibrium allocation explain and justify the statement of the Australian Tax Payers Alliance.
The rapid advancement in technology and communication has made most of the things easier for the human race as a whole. The systems of trading and business have also got its fair share from the advancement and the improvement as well. Better internet connectivity allows a seller to sell its products from a remote location as well. In addition to that, increase in the safety of the payment gateways has also paved the way to collect money from any part of the world as well. There are a number of rationales behind the establishment of the online platform which is attracting more and more sellers nowadays.
First and the foremost rationale for the creation of the online marketplace are the convenience and the easiness that it provides to the sellers. Kakarot-Handtke, (2014) stated that the online marketplace also allows the government to have a look over the players of the market and their financial performances as well. The creation of the online platform also benefits the customers of the market as well. A customer can buy anything from the online platforms and get it delivered wherever he wants. Furthermore, the quickness, safety, and the transparency also contribute to the convenience of the platform as well. Another rationale for creating an online platform is to provide a written product description to the customers for each of the products (Goodwin et al. 2015). Often the middlemen try to influence the customers to divert the customers with the wrong product information of the company. The online marketplace allows the seller to control all the information by themselves (Houde et al. 2017).
The companies also get to use the search engine optimisation in order to attract new customers as well. Goodwin et al. (2015) noted that this reduces the effort of the sellers trying to reach out to the customers of the market. The visibility and the existence of the company can also be increased using the proper algorithms if the company has its presence in the form of online platforms (Fang et al. 2014). Furthermore, one of the biggest rationales behind the use of the online platform is that it reduces the inventory cost for the companies. The web-based management systems allow them to save on the operational cost which in turn can be used to reduce the cost of the goods and the services of the company. According to Eraker et al. 2015, the main objective of the sellers is to provide products that accurately meets the needs of the customers. This requires, mapping the buying patterns and the preferences of the customers which can be done if there is an online presence of the sellers. Through the online marketplaces, the management of the company can keep an eye on the customer related data which further can be used for valuable decision making of the company (Goodwin et al. 2015).
The online marketplaces also save costs for the sellers as opening up and online store is less than opening a physical store. This lower set up costs for the sellers allows them to have better competence over their counterparts who are doing business having a physical store. Using the online marketplace the seller can also make use of the virtual word of mouth of the customers (Cosgrove and Olitsky, 2015). Online product reviews and option to share the products in the social websites and chat application also augments the marketing process of the company as well. The happy and the sissified customers of the company will indirectly work for the marketing of the goods and the services of the company. One of the important rationales behind the creation of the online marketplace is to increase the customer base. In the light of globalisation, an idea which allows the business to use customers of all the parts of the world, an online marketplace allows the seller to expand the business across a limited geographical area (Chaffey, 2015). This way, the entire customers of the world has the potential to become customers of the company.
Figure 2: The reduction in the average cost
(Source: Cosgrove and Olitsky, 2015)
As discussed above, the online marketplace helps in the process of cost reduction as well. This cost reduction is not only advantageous for the sellers, but it benefits the customers as well, through the reduced cost of products and the services. The online marketplace provides ample opportunities to reduce the cost of operation. While reduced personnel requirement reduces the input cost of the company, the marketing charges can also be saved through the online presence as well. Therefore, online marketing provides a lot of benefits to the sellers and the customers of the market. On one hand the decrease in the cost of operation reduces the prices; on the other hand, the reduced cost increases the distribution and the allocation as well (Brue et al. 2014). The customers get better choices for each of the commodities along with an easy means of transferring funds to the sellers. Additionally, the government also have a clear view over the virtual market as well. Therefore, in terms of operation and the online marketing platform becomes very close to a perfect competition leading to a high allocative efficiency and reduced cost for the goods and the services.
According to the principle of economics, the taxes increase the deadweight loss of the society leading to a decrease in the social welfare. I do not agree that the implementation of the online GST would make the Australian retailers more efficient. The tax on the online transaction disturbs the benefits of the platforms and hence its advantages are reduced. There are many reasons that offline Australian retailers and the market system fail to provide the market efficiency that an online marketplace would provide (Boon et al. 2015).
One of the reasons for the inefficiency is the fact that, Australian customers would find many ways to reach out to the global website of the online multinational retailers. The online retailers can easily source various types of products and offer a huge number of products to the customers of the market. Therefore, the elasticity of demand for these products is low and hence the customers will end up paying more to the seller. On the other hand, the Australian retailers will not enjoy a higher demand leading to a tax for the multinational online companies. Bjorklund (2017) commented that the tax for the protection of the domestic sellers, in practical, do not benefit them, rather, the consumers of the market are left with fewer choices. Inefficiency is related to the lack of transfer of technological know-how as well. The presence of online e-commerce companies’ help maintains a healthy competition among the domestic sellers. The domestic sellers also innovate and improve the operation in order to combat the rival players. Eventually, this competition produces a competition among the domestic sellers as well. However, the absence of multinational companies due to the implementation of the taxes can make the domestic company complacent leading to an inefficiency in terms of quality (Basu, 2016).
In terms of the total surplus, the online GST is not beneficial as well. The imposition of tax on the multinational seller increases the cost of supply. Therefore, at each price level, sellers supply fewer amounts of goods and the services to the customers (Barsade, 2014). It is important to note that the tax does not directly influences the demand for the goods and the services and hence the demand curve of the market remains unchanged.
Figure 3: The dead weightless corresponding to the imposition of taxes
(Source: Baek, 2015)
In the new equilibrium point, the price that the customers pay is high while the price that the seller receives is low. The blue rectangle depicts the tax revenue of the government. However, the imposition of taxes also makes the way for the red part that depicts the deadweight loss corresponding to the imposition of taxes. This shows that the overall surplus of the economy is reduced due to the tax and hence the system becomes inefficient.
Short run consequences of tax imposition
In the short run, the local retailers will experience a reduction in the rivalry in the market. Arinze et al. (2018) stated that, in the short run, more and more customers will become the buyer of the local retailers. However, as the process becomes public to take advantages of the VPN in order to reach the global site the local retailers may face a decrease in the demand for the goods and the services. In addition to that, in the short run, the Australian retailers may also find opportunities to capitalise on the market share as well. The revenue stream of each of the local retailers may also boost in the short run. However, in this case, lack of proper technological know-how can curb the potential growth of the retailers.
Long run consequences of tax imposition
The main effect of the online GST on the Australian retailers can be seen in the long run. According to Alley and Emery (2017), long run allows the retailers to change all their inputs to the production process. Thus, the management, not only will be able to increase the labour input, it will also be able to scale up the production process of the company as well. The expanded production process of the retailers will also result in an overall reduction in the cost of production. The price of the goods and the services, following the reduction in the production cost, may also reduce over the time.
Figure 4: The long run consequences of tax imposition
(Source: Alley and Emery, 2017)
Another consequence, in the long run, that can influence the Australian retailer is the ability to invest in the research and the development of the respective firms. However, Fang et al. (2014) contrasted that, research and development require a high level of investment and technological know-how which can go missing from the market of Australia due to the absence of the multinational online companies. Although the local retailers can still bring some innovation in the products and the services, their respective costs will go up leading to an increase in the price level in the Australian market. However, the local retail, in the long run, may find it cost-effective to turn their business into an online marketplace (Bjorklund, 2017). This may reduce the operational cost of the retailers which in turn can help in controlling the prices of goods and the services in the market.
Despite all the changes, the retailers, in the long run, may experience a huge reduction in demand as the customers will be more likely to use VPN services and import it from the multinational companies. Cosgrove and Olitsky (2015) stated that the reduction in the prices of the product may not attract new customers. Consequently, in the long run, many of the Australian retailers go out of business.
Therefore, the answers to the question show that the imposition of the online taxes for the customers of the market may not achieve the goals of the government. Rather, the protectionism may limit the knowledge space of the Australian retailers. This will not only reduce the likeliness of these retailers to attract new investment, the product choices in the economy will also reduce. The efficiency of the market will also be compromised if a tax is imposed on the online purchasing. The principles of demand and supply clearly show that the imposition of the tax will result in a deadweight loss and the overall reduction in the welfare.
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