Money / Business tax tips

Should you register for GST?

One of the first decisions to be made when starting a new business is whether you should register for GST. Here I’ll discuss the key issues you need to consider.

4 June 2010 by

What will your turnover be?

Many business owners automatically register for GST, unaware that in some circumstances it may be optional.

Currently, it’s mandatory to register for GST if you expect your annual turnover to be $75,000 or more.

However if your turnover will be less than this, registering for GST is optional, and you should consider the cash flow and administrative implications of your decision.

Cash flow implications

If you’re forecasting a turnover below the $75,000 threshold, not registering for GST means your selling prices will effectively be 10% cheaper than those of your GST-registered competitors. Or you could charge the same price as your competitors and enjoy a healthier profit margin.

On the other hand, you won’t be able to claim back the GST on your expenses or on any goods you purchase for sale.

"Many business owners automatically register for GST, unaware that in some circumstances it may be optional."

Also bear in mind that some businesses are wary of buying from those that are not registered for GST, perhaps questioning their credibility. This may affect your sales. Furthermore, some businesses prefer to purchase from GST-registered businesses just so they can claim the GST back.

Administrative requirements

On the negative side, GST registration means additional administration work, and reporting to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), typically on a quarterly basis. A registered business has two distinct roles, the running of the business, and acting as a tax collector for the ATO.

However, being forced to maintain your financial records in a timely manner often provides valuable insights that assist in the management of the business, so the admin involved in completing your business activity statement (BAS) may be a blessing in disguise.

In addition, your decision about whether or not to collect GST has implications for the information you’re required to include on your invoices.

What type of business would benefit from not registering for GST?

A business with high service-based sales and minimal expenses and capital purchases may benefit from not being registered for GST, if that option is available to them.

For example, a GST-registered business with an income of $70,000 excluding GST, and outgoing of $10,000 excluding GST, would be required to remit $6,000 collected GST to the ATO. This creates a negative impact on their cash flow, as well as additional paperwork. On the flip side if your non-registered business turns over $70,000 it’s all yours – or at least until the time comes to pay your income tax!

As with all tax issues, you’ll need to speak to your tax accountant about whether or not you should register for GST in your individual situation.

Has registering for GST had a positive or negative effect on your business? Please share your experiences with us.

Heather Smith

is a Chartered Certified Accountant & Xero Accounting Advisor specialising in moving businesses to the cloud, improving productivity and profits. She’s written six books including Xero for Dummies & Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.

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