Decision Impact Statement
Commissioner of Taxation v American Express International Inc;
Commissioner of Taxation v American Express Wholesale Currency Services Pty Limited
||This document has changed over time. View its history.
 HCATrans 114
 FCAFC 122
2010 ATC 20-212
Venue: High Court of Australia;
Full Federal Court
Venue Reference No: S 238-239 of 2010(High Court);NSD 698-699 of 2009 (Full Federal Court)
Judge Name: French CJ, Gummow, Hayne, Heydon, Kiefel JJ (High Court); Dowsett, Kenny and Middleton JJ (Full Federal Court)
Judgment date: 4 May 2011 (High Court); 17 September 2010 (Full Federal Court)
Appeals on foot:
Decision Outcome: Favourable
Administrative Treatment (Implication on current Public Rulings and Determinations)
GSTR 2000/19GSTR 2002/2GSTR 2004/1GSTR 2006/3
Goods and Services Tax
Late payments and liquidated damages under charge card
Credit card facilities
Supply of an interest
Interest in or under a debt
Credit arrangement or right to credit
Charges formed revenue
Input taxed supplies
Consideration for a financial supply
Outlines the ATO response to this matter which concerns the GST treatment of fees incurred for late payment under charge card and credit card facilities. The issue is whether the fees are consideration for an input taxed financial supply.
Brief Summary of Facts
In calculating the amount of input tax credits to which it was entitled, American Express International Inc and American Express Wholesale Currency Services Pty Limited (together, "Amex") adopted a revenue-based apportionment methodology to determine their Extent of Creditable Purpose (ECP) under subsection 11-30(3) of the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 (GST Act) as follows:
[1-(revenue derived from input taxed supplies) / total revenue] x 100.
In this formula, Amex excluded the following fees from the numerator while including them in the denominator:
The fees referred to in a) and b) above are collectively referred to as the "Fee Payments".
Amex did not treat the Fee Payments as consideration for input taxed financial supplies. Accordingly, the calculation of the ECP resulted in a larger input tax credit entitlement than would otherwise be available and a corresponding reduction in net amount.
- late payment fees received in respect of the credit card facility; and
- amounts described as "liquidated damages" received in respect of the charge card facility.
Issues decided by the Court
Before the Full Federal Court, the Commissioner sought and was granted leave to amend his appeal statement to argue that the Fee Payments were revenue derived from the making of input taxed supplies for the purposes of the revenue formula as set out above. The Commissioner's argument at first instance was limited to whether the Fee Payments were consideration for input taxed supplies made by Amex.
The majority of the Full Federal Court found at  and  that:
- Amex provided an 'interest' for the purposes of regulation 40-5.02 of the GST Regulations being the right to present the charge card or credit card as payment without having immediately to part with money;
- that interest was an interest in or under a credit arrangement or right to credit under item 2 of the table in subregulation 40-5.09(3) of the GST Regulations;
- that interest was not a supply of an interest in or under a payment system for the purposes of item 4 of the table in regulation 40-5.12 of the GST Regulations; and
- the Fee Payments were revenue derived from the input taxed supplies of the interest in or under a credit arrangement or right to credit.
The issue before the High Court was whether to grant special leave to Amex to appeal the decision of the Full Federal Court. On 4 May 2011 a full bench of the High Court refused Amex's application.
ATO view of Decision
The Commissioner has expressed a view on the meaning of 'interest' under regulation 40-5.02 of the GST Regulations in paragraphs 78-81 of GSTR 2002/2. This view is consistent with the view of the majority of the Full Court that the right of the cardholder to present the charge card or credit card as payment without having immediately to part with money is an 'interest' for the purposes of sub regulation 40-5.02.
The decision that the 'interest' provided by Amex to a cardholder was an interest in or under a credit arrangement or right to credit under item 2 of the table in sub regulation 40-5.09(3) is consistent with the Commissioner's submissions to the Court.
The decision of the full bench of the High Court to refuse Amex's application for special leave means that the decision of the Full Federal Court remains undisturbed. The majority of the Full Court was not required to determine whether the Fee Payments were consideration for input taxed supplies made by Amex. The majority did decide, for the purposes of the formula used by Amex, that the Fee Payments were revenue derived from an input taxed supply.
The Commissioner's views expressed in GSTR 2002/2 and GSTR 2000/19 are consistent with Dowsett J's observations at  -  that a cardholder is effectively authorised to pledge Amex's "credit" and that, to the extent that any relevant interest was supplied by Amex, the promise to pay liquidated damages or late payment fees was consideration for such a supply. Dowsett J. also observed that there seems little justification for treating a promise to pay as consideration, but the actual payment as not being consideration. This may be contrasted to the decision of Emmett J. at first instance in which he found that the Fee Payments were not consideration in connection with a financial supply: ( FCA 683 at  to ). Taking into account that the judgement at first instance was reversed on appeal, and the only member of the Full Court who addressed the issue considered that the Fee Payments were consideration for a financial supply, the Commissioner respectfully maintains the view expressed in GSTR 2002/2 and GSTR 2000/19 that such payments are consideration for financial supplies.
The Commissioner's view that, in the context of regulation 40-5.12 of the GST Regulations, a cardholder is not a participant in a payment system (see Line No A100 of Schedule to GSTR 2002/2 and paragraphs 249 and 255 of GSTR 2004/1) is consistent with the majority decision that Amex does not supply an interest in or under the payment system to a cardholder (at  and  - ). However, the majority observed at  that a merchant can be described as a participant in the payment system operated by Amex. The Commissioner's view had been that merchants were third parties in a payment system rather than participants in the system.
Implications for ATO precedential documents (Public Rulings & Determinations etc)
The Commissioner has reviewed the view expressed in GSTR 2004/1 concerning the meaning of a participant in a payment system for the purposes of regulation 40-5.12 of the GST Regulations. The Commissioner's view has been updated to reflect the reasoning of the majority of the Court through Addendum GSTR 2004/1A3 which issued on 18 January 2012.
Implications on Law Administration Practice Statements
We invite you to advise us if you feel this decision has consequences we have not identified, or if a precedential decision such as a Public Ruling or an ATO ID requires reconsideration or amendment. Please forward your comments to the contact officer.
| Date Issued:
||30 September 2011
| Due Date:
||25 November 2011
| Contact officer:
|| Alex Affleck
| Email address:
||(07) 3213 8354
||(07) 3213 8465
||10 Banfield Street, Chermside QLD 4032
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A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Regulations 1999 (Cth)
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