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Business transactions involving bartering or trade exchanges are subject to the same income tax and GST treatment as normal cash or credit transactions.  Please find more information about your tax obligations from your accountant and/or financial adviser and through the Australian Tax Office.

Tax treatment of barter transactions

Barter transactions are assessable and deductible for income tax purposes to the same extent as other cash or credit transactions.

When an entity that is a member of a trade exchange makes a taxable sale to another member, there is a liability for tax, including GST.

Payment may be in money or in kind, or in some instances a combination of these. The payment for sales between members of a trade exchange is the debiting of the recipient’s account and the payment received is the crediting of the supplier’s account.

Value of supplies made through a trade exchange need to be taken into account when determining whether an entity meets the GST registration threshold and is required to register for GST. For example, if an entity has $60,000 of cash transactions and barter transactions valued at $20,000, it meets the GST registrations threshold.

As a general rule, when valuing the payment arising from barter or countertrade transactions, we will accept a fair market value as adequately reflecting the money value or arm’s length value, as applicable. In most cases, we will accept as a fair market value the cash price that the taxpayer would normally have charged a stranger for the services or for the sale of the goods or property.

The rules of most business-oriented countertrade organisations specify a rate for converting credit units into an Australian dollar equivalent. Customarily the rules specify that each credit unit has a value equivalent to one Australian dollar. Where the monetary value worked out using the rate specified in the rules represents a fair market value of the goods or services provided, that rate is to be applied when valuing the payment. In all other cases, a conversion rate that values the goods or services provided at their fair market value is to be applied when valuing the payment.

Transactions where the values are set at artificially high levels for the purpose of establishing an inflated income tax deduction may indicate fraudulent activity. Parties to transactions that involve inflated credit unit values may have consequences other than an adjustment to the amount of income returned or the amount of income tax deductions claimed.

Personal purchases are not deductible for income tax purposes and a GST credit cannot be claimed, whether the purchase is made using trade dollars or Australian currency.

Example: GST payable on a taxable supply between members of a trade exchange

Harvey and Tracey are registered for GST and are both members of the Better Bartering Exchange. Harvey is a bookkeeper and provides bookkeeping services to Tracey who operates a courier service. Harvey’s trading account is credited with 440 Better Bartering credits (BBs) for the supply of services to Tracey.

Under the rules of the exchange, one BB equals $1 and the commercial value of the services is $440. The price of the supply is 440 BBs. Before calculating the value of the supply, the 440 BBs are converted to their Australian dollar equivalent ($440). The value of the taxable supply that Harvey makes is $440 × (10÷11), which is $400. The GST on the supply is, therefore, $40 (that is, 10% of $400).

Harvey will declare $400 as assessable income on his income tax return, and Tracey will claim $400 as a deduction on her tax return.

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