Compiled by Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: The debate this week concerning taxation on overseas purchases, instigated by Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey, has lead to a record response from readers. We’ve had views come in from fellow retailers, suppliers and consumers. Printed below are edited extracts from readers who have contacted us to share their views.

“What are the retailers going on about? US firms buy from  Japan or wherever, the same as Australian retailers, so surely they must pay similar prices to import items. Why can"t the retail prices be similar?   Don"t tell me regulations are all that different between the two countries. A Japanese-made guitar, for instance, sells for $1,200-$14,00 in the US; In Australia they want $2,500. An American-made guitar sells for $2,500,  in Australia for $5,500 — and these prices have held for six months. Please don’t tell me these are old stock, when I enquired about purchasing one, I was told ‘at least three months delivery: it has to be imported we don’t have one in stock. I can’t understand it” — Consumer.

“After reading the article in regards to online GST needing to be implemented, I totally agree. Having been in retail for over 10 years I have found online overseas retailers need to get into the same field we all play in. They still have the same benifits in regards to little wage spend, low over heads etc but getting them to contribute to this countries economy with the payment of gst is not a lot to ask for, let's start bringing back our customers to our brick and mortar stores or at least get something from overseas retailers to help improve our economy. I know the challenge will be hard but the rewards will be worth it” — Retailer.

“We all want to minimise our expenditure (including tax), not just big business, hence the popularity of overseas online shopping,” — Consumer.

“I do agree that GST needs to apply to everyone who imports products to Australia and the current situation where Customs allows imported goods in under $1,000 GST free needs to be stopped. Now our dollar is at parity with the US, a lot of opportunists are setting up with importing websites which also mislead consumers into believing that the local manufacturer will provide warranty, and many wont. The Government is missing out on a growing amount of GST revenue and the longer they do nothing about it the more businesses will be lost. A 10 per cent advantage can be the difference between a consumer helping the Australian economy or them sending their money overseas. I’ve been in business for 28 years and the last 2 years have been the toughest experienced. The Australian Government should stand by and support local businesses and make sure everyone importing into Australia pays the same GST” — Retailer.

“Competition is always a good thing because, as we've seen in the banking and food industry, when it's controlled by only a few companies, the average person gets shafted. But when one side has an unfair advantage who would want to go see that fight? It can and will be just as harmful as no competition. With online purchases increasing, not all bricks and mortar stores will suffer but many will and many will close, leading to unemployment and, most importantly, higher taxes. Because if the government isn't getting GST and all the others taxes off businesses they will get it somewhere. Existing GST will go up plus house and land tax rates will go up. I'm not the biggest fan of Gerry Harvey, he is a bit of a hypocrite, but he does put a lot of money back into the community through sponsorship and other charities. I don't see any of these overseas companies doing the same, even Ruslan Kogan doesn't sponsor anything, except himself” — Consumer. has since learned that Ruslan Kogan does sponsor a number of events and does donate to charity. As ocassionally happens when publishing other people's comments, has inadvertantly published an inaccuracy. According to a Kogan spokesperson, "Kogan donates to charities all the time. They constantly make financial and product-based donations to charitable causes, particularly those helping children."

These comments have been edited to improve readability.

Would you like to add to the debate? Send me an email.

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