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Understanding the Different GST (Goods and services tax) Systems Globally

In today’s world, not understanding the intricacies of taxation can cost you a lot. Among the many tax systems that shape the international economic landscape, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is one of the most powerful.

GST is often referred to as the foundation of consumption tax, which impacts both businesses and individuals. Understanding goods and services tax has become a necessity for every business all across the globe.

If you are seeking opportunities on the global stage or want to engage in cross-border transactions, you need to learn about the GST system to navigate the international marketplace.

This blog aims to be your comprehensive guide into the world of GST. Let us start by understanding what GST is.

What is GST?

GST, or goods and services tax, is a modern and efficient method of taxation adopted by many countries worldwide. It is a value-added tax levied on the majority of goods and services sold. It is designed to capture the value added at each stage of the production and distribution chain, ensuring a fair and equitable distribution of the tax burden.

 pay GST

Unlike traditional sales taxes that are typically imposed only at the final point of sale to the end consumer, GST takes a more comprehensive approach.

When any products or services move from one stage of production or distribution to the next, GST is applied to the “value added” at each stage. Value-added, in this context, refers to the difference between the cost of inputs and the sale price of the final product or service.

By taxing this incremental value, GST (Goods and Services Tax) ensures that the tax burden is distributed across all participants in the supply chain, from manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers.

One of the defining features of GST is that it’s applied at various stages of the production and distribution process. These stages can vary from one country to another, but the core principle remains consistent.

The tax is collected not only when a final product or service is sold to the end consumer but also at every intermediate stage where value is added.

Importantly, businesses have the ability to claim credits for the GST they’ve paid on their inputs. This mechanism is known as the input tax credit. It helps prevent the cascading effect of taxation, where taxes are repeatedly applied to the same value.

The Worldwide Adoption of GST (Goods and Services Tax)

Currently, over 160 countries have adopted a GST system. What drives this remarkable global embrace is the inherent versatility of GST. Countries with diverse economic structures and objectives have found this tax mechanism to be an adaptable and efficient revenue collection tool.

How different countries of the world pay GST

So, what makes GST the preferred method of taxation in numerous countries? Its straightforward approach, along with the multitude of economic benefits it offers. Unlike conventional sales tax, which usually applies only at the point of final sale to consumers, Goods and Services Tax (GST) provides a more comprehensive solution.

Goods and Services Tax provides a common tax framework that countries can align with.

The Diversity of Global GST Systems

One of the remarkable aspects of GST is its flexibility. While the fundamental concept remains consistent – the taxation of value addition at multiple supply chain stages – each country tailors its GST framework to match its specific needs.

For instance, the way GST is applied, the rates set, and the range of exemptions granted vary from one nation to another.

GST rates – Variation across the world

While the core concept of GST remains consistent, the actual rates at which GST is applied can differ significantly from country to country. Let us pay attention to these.

Standard Rate

This is the primary GST rate that applies to most goods and services. It forms the baseline rate for GST collection.

Reduced Rate

Specific essential goods and services, such as basic food items or healthcare, may qualify for a reduced rate. This rate is lower than the standard rate and aims to reduce the tax burden on necessities.

gst obligations

Higher Rate

On the other end of the spectrum, some countries apply a higher GST rate to specific luxury items, such as electronics or premium services.

Zero Rate

In some cases, particular goods and services may be subject to a zero GST rate. This means that no GST is applied to them, effectively making them non-taxable. Zero rates often apply to exports or certain categories of goods and services.

Examples of Diverse GST Rate Structures

The diversity in Goods and Services Tax becomes apparent when we look at different countries’ tax systems.


The standard GST rate in Australia is 10%. This rate applies to most goods and services consumed in the country. It’s important to note that not all goods and services are subject to GST.

There are some goods and services that are exempt from GST. For example, basic food is GST-free, while healthcare services are generally not subject to GST.

Businesses with an annual turnover of $75,000 or more are required to register for GST. Some businesses with a turnover below this threshold can choose to register voluntarily. Once registered, they must charge GST on their taxable sales and report it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The Australian Taxation Office will collect GST from a GST registered business in Australia

A business that is registered for GST can claim input tax credits for the GST it has already paid on the business-related purchases. In simpler words, when a business purchases materials, equipment and services, or inputs, it already has paid GST on these, then it can offset the already paid GST.

To know more about GST in Australia, you can read the complete blog on our website.


Let us look at Singapore. It has a simplified dual GST rate structure with the following rates:

This standard rate of 8% applies to most goods and services consumed within the country.

Some specific supplies, like exported goods and international services, are zero-rated, meaning they are not subject to GST. Certain financial services are also exempt to prevent the double taxation of financial transactions.

Singapore’s GST system is relatively straightforward, with a single standard rate and a well-defined mechanism for zero-rating and exempting certain supplies.


Canada’s GST system includes both federal and provincial components, leading to a varying tax rate by province. The federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate is 5%, but when combined with provincial taxes, the total tax rate can range from 5% to 15%, depending on the province.

The varying rates across Canadian provinces add complexity for businesses that operate nationally and necessitate region-specific tax compliance.


India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) system is known for its multi-tiered structure. It includes the following GST rates:

Standard Rate (18%)

The most common GST rate in India is the Standard rate of 18%, applicable to numerous goods and services, including many consumer goods.

Reduced rates apply to various essential items, such as basic food items, healthcare services, and some educational services. The 5% rate typically covers essential goods, while the 12% rate may apply to items like processed foods and pharmaceuticals.

The highest GST rate in India is 28%. It is applied to luxury items, including automobiles, electronic gadgets, and other non-essential goods and services.

Certain essential goods like unprocessed food, books, and some agricultural products are subject to a 0% GST rate, making them effectively tax-free. This is to ensure that basic necessities remain affordable for all citizens.

gst free sales

New Zealand

New Zealand has a single, flat-rate GST of 15%. This 15% tax is applied to most goods and services consumed within the country. While GST is applied to a wide range of goods and services, there are some exemptions.

Businesses in New Zealand with an annual turnover of NZ$60,000 or more are required to register for GST. However, businesses with an annual turnover below this threshold can choose to register voluntarily.

Critiques of the GST

Generally, GST is considered a regressive tax. In simpler terms, it means that GST takes a considerably larger percentage of income from lower-income households when compared to higher-income households.

The reason behind this is that GST is levied uniformly on the consumption of goods and services instead of income or wealth. Consumables, such as food and household goods, are subject to GST, and lower-income households are obligated to spend a huge proportion of their total income on them.

Owing to this, a lot of countries with GST are thinking about making possible adjustments that may make the tax more progressive.

Need for GST Worldwide

Implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has benefited numerous countries worldwide. GST is said to simplify the tax system when compared to other forms of consumption tax and sales tax regimes.

GST increases revenue collection along with reducing production costs, which benefits not only consumers and products. It fosters transparency and compliance, reduces tax evasion, promotes economic growth and facilitates trade by harmonising tax structures.

The government gets a stable source of revenue through GST to support development activities that can actually benefit society. Overall, for simplifying and modernising tax systems, implementing GST-like systems has been necessary.

Advantages of GST

Reducing Tax Cascading: One of the primary advantages of Goods and Services Tax (GST) is its ability to reduce tax cascading, also known as the “tax-on-tax” effect. Under conventional tax systems, taxes are levied at multiple stages of production and distribution.

This can lead to a compounding of taxes on the same value, resulting in higher costs for consumers. GST addresses this issue by allowing businesses to claim input tax credits, effectively offsetting the tax paid on inputs against the tax collected on sales.

This mechanism streamlines the tax structure and prevents double taxation, leading to cost savings and more competitive pricing.

Promoting Transparency: GST introduces transparency into the taxation process. The clear description of tax rates and the requirement to report and remit GST on a regular basis encourage businesses to maintain accurate financial records.

This transparency helps tax authorities monitor compliance and detect any irregularities, reducing tax evasion and the shadow economy.

Pros and cons of paying GST

Challenges of GST

Complexity of Multi-Tiered Systems: In some countries, GST systems can be quite complex because of the presence of multiple tax rates and exemptions. Multi-tiered systems, as seen in India with its various GST rate slabs, can be challenging for businesses to navigate.

They must correctly categorise their products and services to apply the appropriate rate, making compliance more intricate and increasing administrative burdens.

Compliance Issues: The transition to a GST system and ongoing compliance can be challenging for businesses and individuals. Mistakes in reporting or compliance can result in fines and penalties. Small businesses, in particular, may struggle with the administrative burden of complying with GST regulations.

Responsibility for Paying GST

The responsibility for paying Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not uniform across countries; it is essential to recognise that GST rules and regulations can vary significantly worldwide.

In most nations, the primary responsibility for remitting GST lies with the supplier of goods and services. This entails the supplier registering for GST, collecting the tax from customers, and forwarding the collected tax to the government.

In situations where the supplier is not GST-registered, the customer may need to deposit the GST under a reverse charge mechanism.

GST Obligations

GST calculations are based on the taxable supply of goods and services made by a registered entity during a specific period. Put simply, the tax base for GST calculation encompasses the total amount received or yet to be received by a registered entity for their goods and services minus any pre-existing GST included in that amount.

The tax is calculated at the prescribed GST or VAT rate applied to this tax base. It’s worth noting that specific rules for calculating the tax base may exist in some countries, and adjustments might be required for certain transactions or particular scenarios.

Obligation to Register for GST

The obligation to register for GST is contingent on the laws and regulations of each individual country. Each country typically sets its own threshold for taxable turnover and designates specific goods and services that necessitate GST registration.

Although numerous countries have adopted GST systems, the criteria for GST registration can vary considerably from one nation to another.

Looking for professional accountants who can help you with your tax matters? Contact Clear Tax Accountants today!


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