GST private rulings for August 2012 – focus on Executors Commission and GST refunds

In August 2012 the Commissioner published over 40 private rulings on the Private Rulings Register dealing with GST issues.  A list of the rulings can be accessed here.

Of particular interest were private rulings dealing with the GST implications of Executors Commission and the perennial issue of GST refunds.

Private Ruling No.1012201810746 dealt with the question of whether GST was payable on executors commission to be received by an executor appointed to administer an estate. The Private Ruling found that GST was payable because the executor was carrying on an enterprise (he was already registered in respect of a farming business) and GST was payable.  While accepting that the appointment was a “one off”, the ruling found that the activity had the characteristics of a business deal and fell within the definition of “enterprise” in the GST Act.

This ruling has important implications for any person who takes an appointment as executor and seeks to recover executors commission.  Where a person is not registered for GST, there will only be an issue where the turnover threshold of $75,000 is exceeded.  However, where a person is registered (albeit in respect of a totally unrelated enterprise – in the case of the private ruling, the applicant was registered as a farmer), that person will be potentially exposed to a GST liability of 1/11th of the Commission.  This also raises the question of whether the Commission can be “grossed up” for the GST liability and whether the Estate should (or can) be registered for GST so that it can claim an input tax credit in respect of the GST.

Private Ruling No.1012202126278 dealt with the GST treatment of an out of court settlement payment and whether the Commissioner would exercise its discretion in s 105-65 of Schedule 1 to the TAA to refund the overpaid GST.  In the private ruling, the Commissioner confirmed that the payment was not subject to GST and that “on balance” the Commissioner would exercise the discretion to pay a refund of GST because he was satisfied that the settlement amount was set without taking GST into account and the applicant made a later decision to treat the amount as consideration for a taxable supply, meaning that the overpaid GST was not passed on to the recipient and the burden of the GST was borne by the applicant.

Last month the Treasurer released a controversial exposure draft for introduction of Division 36 into the GST Act, which is to replace s 105-65 of Schedule 1 to the TAA.  My post on the exposure draft can be accessed here and my analysis of the new provisions can be accessed here.  Under the new provisions, the same result would occur because the Commissioner accepted that no part of the overpaid GST was passed on to the recipient.

It is interesting that in the private ruling, no tax invoice was given to the recipient.  Under the proposed changes, if a tax invoice had been provided (which the applicant would have been required to do under the GST Act if required by the recipient), this would have provided “prima facie evidence” of the GST being passed on to the other entity.  In these circumstances, it is difficult to see how the mere fact of the provision of a tax invoice can potentially convert a situation where GST is not passed on, to one where GST is passed on.

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