More smoke and mirrors over carbon tax: will SMEs have to pay?

SMEs may find themselves again shouldering the burden on the carbon tax, as Clive Palmer makes demands on the federal government that may see all business—not just energy suppliers—hit with extra paperwork and penalties.

The Palmer United Party (PUP) created chaos yesterday when it blocked the anticipated repeal of the carbon tax, after Palmer demanded amendments to the repeal bill at the last minute.

These amendments included a call for all businesses to justify price fluctuations that result from the repeal of the carbon tax.

Fairfax reports PUP senator Dio Wang confirmed late last night the demand would apply to any business supplying goods or services to consumers.

Under the plan, businesses would have to produce a statement to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission within 30 days on how the carbon tax repeal affected their costs and how that was reflected in prices.

If a business failed to pass on its savings from the eliminated tax, it would face fines of 250% of those savings. Fines would apply whether the offence was deliberate or accidental.

The last minute amendments didn’t pass the upper house because they were seen as unconstitutional, due to the 250% penalty being seen as a possible new ‘tax’ that would therefore have to pass the House of Representatives first, according to the ABC.

Palmer accused the government of failing to pass on the savings to consumers, saying this justified his actions to delay the repeal. He later stormed out of an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 program.

Clive Palmer’s office was contacted for comment, but SmartCompany did not receive a response prior to publication.

Meanwhile, retail groups are furious at the notion they may have to jump through hoops to see the long-awaited death of the carbon tax.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman told SmartCompany the measures would be an unwanted red tape nightmare for retailers.

Zimmerman says retailers would naturally have passed on the savings to customers because of the competitive retail environment.

“If Coles and Woolworths or Bakers Delight or Brumby’s lower their prices, then everyone in Australia does it,” says Zimmerman. “Of course they will be handed down through.”

Zimmerman says, by delaying the carbon tax repeal, Clive Palmer is delaying the return of consumer confidence and actually increasing the cost of living for consumers.

“Clive Palmer needs to let the government get on with what the Australian people elected the government to do,” says Zimmerman.

“They were very specific when there were elected. There is a mandate by the Australian public to remove the carbon tax.”

Zimmerman says a number of small retailers with huge energy costs have also been hit with recent wage increases, and increases to super contributions and worker’s compensation payments.

“Providing those costs haven’t eaten everything up, we can’t afford not to pass on savings to our consumers,” he says.

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