Uber

John Andrews made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Taxation Office

The request was refused by Australian Taxation Office.

From: John Andrews

Delivered

Dear Australian Taxation Office,
By law it is the purchaser or user of a good or service that is obliged to pay G.S.T. on the good or service that they purchase. Uber drivers are required to pay 10% on their share of the total earnings, where the tax office appears to deem that G.S.T. is collected. Given that Uber is registered for G.S.T. their quarterly BAS statement should include total earnings and the amount of G.S.T. collected. Can the ATO provide any evidence that Uber collects the G.S.T. from it's customers and does their BAS statement indicate the figure collected that is passed to the drivers and do they have an obligation to show the G.S.T. component in their statements to drivers given the fact that they collect all fares. At the moment drivers have no proof that Uber collects G.S.T. at all, could you please provide it?

Yours faithfully,

John Andrews

Link to this

Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

The request must be refused because of the privacy provisions in the Australian taxation law. In any case, it is not necessary for the payer to know whether the payee is actually paying GST. The thing that the payee must do is confirm that the payee has an ABN. To quote: "If an entity makes supplies of goods or services to a business, the supplier entity generally needs to quote an ABN. If the supplier does not quote an ABN, the payer may need to withhold tax from the payment" ... the unspoken part of which is "so that the payer can pay the correct amount to the Australian Taxation Office."

Link to this

From: John Andrews

Delivered

Dear Australian Taxation Office,
G.S.T. is only payable by the purchaser or the user of the service, if there is no evidence it is being collected which the BAS statements that Uber submit would obviously indicate even if their invoices don't, then we have a situation wherein the drivers are paying the G.S.T. on behalf of the purchaser or user rather than the actual purchaser or user and this is both theft and fraud. Why should any driver be paying someone else's G.S.T. on the say so of the ATO. Surely someone from the ATO could provide evidence that this tax is collected, because the fact of the matter is that only the ATO knows. Alternately at a minimum perhaps the ATO officer could provide a statutory declaration to the effect that this G.S.T. is being collected, which I very much doubt because if it were the case, then the ATO would collect it from a single BAS statement from a single organisation rather than from thousands of drivers. I do note however that you offer no reassurance in your reply that this tax is being collected from the only people obligated to pay it, the users of the Uber service.

Yours faithfully,

John Andrews

Link to this

Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

Mr Andrews, we have both made a mistake. I begin with yours but only because it is easier. I think you believed that my annotation was actually a reply from the Australian Taxation Office and that for this reason you have asked for an internal review. I am not from the Australian Taxation Office. I am not even an administrator of Right to Know. I am just a regular user of Right to Know, exactly the same as yourself. I am sorry if you have been misled. Users of Right to Know can make annotations (comments) on any of the request pages, either to add extra information, to answer questions, to ask questions, or for any other helpful reason. I thought that I was being helpful but instead the annotation seems to have led you astray. What this means is that there is no reason to have asked for an internal review. In fact, an internal review is not yet possible because the ATO has not made any decision about your application. In fact they have not even acknowledged that they have received your application ... and they might not do this (for reasons about this comment, please look at this story www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-12/atos-refu... ).

So that you can recognize in the future the different things on a request page from Right to Know, you should see that messages going from a user to an agency are in boxes with an orange background; replies that come from the government agencies are in boxes with a gray background; annotations are on a white background and always have the word "annotation" in the top heading.

Now for my own mistakes, but first to something that was not a mistake. I said that your request must be refused. That is true. Almost all of it must be refused because the secrecy provisions of Australian taxation law prohibit the ATO from divulging personal information about individuals and businesses. The part that is answerable is the part where you ask whether Uber must provide certain information to their drivers about GST. That part will be answerable, at least in the general terms are of what information an employer (or contractor) is required to give to its employees (or subcontractors). But your question will not be allowed to be answered specifically about what Uber generally does or does not do.

If you are concerned that Uber is not correctly paying the GST that it owes, then you can always contact the ATO tax-avoidance complaints area. They have a special telephone number for information about tax-avoidance.

Not for the detail about my own mistake. I was (completely) wrong about the payee having to withhold GST sometimes when using Uber services. I made the mistake of thinking that the passenger is employing the driver but in fact the passenger is making a purchase. The thing that the passenger is entitled to do is ask for the ABN number of the driver, or of Uber if the Uber company is really the service seller, and the passenger is also entitled to ask for an invoice. The requirements for the invoice (which must be given to the passenger within 28 days of request) are explained on the ATO website under information about GST invoices.

Please accept my apologies, number 1 for my mistake, number 2 for having confused you about who I am.

Link to this

From: FOI
Australian Taxation Office

 
Dear Mr Andrews,
 
The freedom of information request you have made via the Right to Know
website is not a valid request. A valid FOI request must be for documents
in the possession of an agency.
 
You may wish to make a fresh request for documents. However, if your
request is seeking information about the tax affairs of Uber, the ATO is
precluded by the Confidentiality of Taxpayer Information provisions found
in Schedule 1 to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 from disclosing
information pertaining to a taxpaying entity to another party. Accordingly
any such request would be refused under section 38 of the FOI Act 1982.
 
The ATO view on the tax obligations of ride sourcing operators can be
found at
[1]https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-d....
 
Regards,
FOI team
 
 
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-d...

Link to this

From: John Andrews

Delivered

Dear Australian Taxation Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Australian Taxation Office's handling of my FOI request 'Uber'.

Hi, I understand, as you have pointed out that privacy considerations prevent the disclosure of Uber's tax details but as an Uber driver I am seeking some assurance or evidence that the G.S.T. which is payable by the user of a service or purchaser of goods is actually being collected by those obliged to pay it and that Uber, given that they handle all the revenue directly from the riders are in fact collecting it. As it stands, it could be interpreted that drivers are being forced to pay a G.S.T. out of their own earnings which should be paid by the riders using the service. The link to the tax office's policy seems to me only relevant if it can be shown that this tax is in fact being paid by riders, if not, then it would also seem to me illegal for the tax office to impose this tax on the income of drivers.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/u...

Yours faithfully,

John Andrews

Link to this

Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

The applicant, if I have understood the matter, wants reassurance that someone (Uber) is paying, or collecting, the tax that they should pay or collect. But this too must be refused because of the combination of s 38 ("Documents to which secrecy provisions of enactments apply") of the Freedom of Information Act and Schedule 1 of the Tax Administration Act 1953. It is not clear what information would satisfy the applicant that is not also taxation information that is confidential to Uber.

Link to this

From: John Andrews

Delivered

Dear FOI,
Surely the tax department can offer some evidence that the G.S.T. is collected from those required to pay it, the users of the service. At the moment no evidence exists that this tax is being collected. There is no reference to G.S.T. in the invoices issued to users or to statements issued to drivers, no evidence in the paper trail at all. It is reasonable to assume that the tax is not being collected by the issuer of the invoices (Uber) because there is no evidence that it is and the only document that would indicate whether the tax is in fact collected would be the BAS statement that is completed by Uber, presumably every quarter like everyone else. The tax department due to privacy laws cannot understandably reveal Uber's financial information but they can without error, due to their intimate and sensitive knowledge provide an assurance to both the public and drivers that it is being collected, without revealing private details, lest we are in a position that drivers are being forced to pay a tax that is the responsibility of another party to the transaction, namely the user of the service. Would it be an affront to the privacy laws for the tax department to provide a statutory declaration that this tax is being collected, obviously they could do so without revealing personal information.

Yours sincerely,

John Andrews

Link to this

From: FOI
Australian Taxation Office


Attachment Notice.pdf
51K Download View as HTML


Dear FOI Applicant,
 
Please see attachment.
 
 
Yours faithfully,
 
FOI Team
 

show quoted sections

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Australian Taxation Office only: