The recent release of Class Ruling 2019/61 provides confirmation of how South Australian Councils should be treating their fees and charges for GST purposes. This Class Ruling also provides guidance for other councils regarding the GST treatment of their own fees.
Between 2013 and 2015, the Commissioner of Taxation issued a number of Class Rulings relating to the GST treatment of various fees, charges and services imposed/supplied by NSW Councils. The focus of many of these Class Rulings was whether the Commissioner considered that Division 81 of the GST Act applied such that the Councils’ fees and charges could be treated as GST-exempt (see our recent article GST and Classifying Taxes, Fees and Charges for further information regarding Division 81).
These NSW Council Class Rulings, due to their nature as class rulings, could only be relied upon by the specific parties referred to in the rulings (i.e. the NSW Councils that are members of the Local Government Association of NSW). However, other taxpayers in similar situations (generally, other councils), have historically used these NSW Council Class Rulings to provide guidance and insight into how the Commissioner may treat the GST Act as applying to similar fees, charges and supplies.
Notwithstanding the general guidance provided by the NSW Council Class Rulings, a new Class Ruling (CR 2019/61) was recently sought and obtained by councils who are members of the Local Government Association of South Australia (‘South Australian Councils’) in relation to a collection of fees and charges they may impose. The fees and charges which the Commissioner considered fit into the following broad categories:
- permits and licences (for example: road closure permit fees, parking permit fees, event permit fees, tax and hire car licence fees, etc.);
- development and planning (for example: lodgement fees for development approvals, development authorisation fees, developer contributions for land division, etc. );
- commercial services (for example: caravan park and camping group fees, electricity charges, storage fees, etc.);
- community (in relation to libraries, home assistance, transport, community programs, child care, etc.);
- animals (for example: animal registration fees, dog training fees, etc.); and
- private works, waste management and water.
For each type of fee/charge, the Commissioner has confirmed the GST treatment, whether taxable pursuant to section 9-5 of the GST Act, exempt under subsection 81-10(1) of the GST Act, exempt under another section, etc. In addition, the Commissioner has provided useful technical guidance in the Appendix to CR 2019/61 in relation to Division 81 of the GST Act to support of his position.
It is worth noting that prescribed treatments appear to be consistent with the Commissioner’s treatment of similar fees in the various NSW Council Class Rulings, although fewer specific fees/charges appear to have been considered in CR 2019/61 than in the collective NSW Council Class rulings.
For South Australian Councils, the publishing of CR 2019/61 provides confirmation regarding the GST treatment of the various fees/charges imposed by these councils.
For councils other than NSW and South Australian Councils, this class ruling provides additional, and current, general guidance regarding the way their corresponding fees/charges should be treated for the purposes of the GST Act. However, Councils other than South Australian Councils cannot rely on CR 2019/61.
[Editor’s Note: If you would like assistance in reviewing or classifying taxes, fees and charges, TaxEd would be pleased to assist. Alternatively, if you have an issue that would benefit from a ruling and you consider the issues would be applicable to a range of similar taxpayers (e.g. councils or not-for-profits), you are welcome to contact TaxEd and we can advise or assist in determining whether a Class Ruling may be a viable option.]
This article provides a general summary of the subject covered and cannot be relied upon in relation to any specific instance. It is not intended to be, nor should it be relied upon as, a substitute for professional advice. TaxEd Pty Ltd and any person connected with its production disclaim any liability in connection with any use.