Carbon tax: know your rights …

We’re two months into living with the carbon tax. Around the country, a number of our members are starting to receive invoices from suppliers and can now begin to see more clearly whether and by how much some costs may be increasing.

Travelling about, I’m still encountering a few members who are asking ‘what do I do about this? Am I allowed to pass it on?’

The answer is pretty simple. The carbon tax is no different to all the other cost pressures that you manage successfully in your business.

For any of our ordinary members, the carbon tax legislation doesn’t include any new laws that affect how you can set rates for your business.

You are still completely and legally free to set your rates at whatever level you judge is appropriate and whatever level you can convince your customer to take.

What you can’t do is say to a customer something like ‘this particular rate increase is (entirely) due to the carbon tax’ – unless you believe you can prove it. You can’t use the carbon tax as a dodgy excuse to twist your customers’ arm or make them feel that they have basically no choice and no right of refusal.

If you’ve got invoices that show that your costs are going up, then by all means tell your customers that you are facing increased costs and even show them the details. Never mind why it’s happening, just stick to the numbers.

The law says you can’t twist your customers arm by making up false stories. But that law has nothing to do with the carbon tax. It’s just the ordinary ‘fair trading and competition law’ that you have always worked under.

Using ‘false, misleading or deceptive statements’ to secure advantage in commercial negotiations has been illegal in Australia for about 38 years. Nothing’s changed about that.

If you’ve been successfully negotiating rate increases when your unavoidable costs have gone up during the last 38 years, just keep doing what you’ve done before.

If you like to push back at your suppliers whenever you’ve felt they are trying it on, you’re allowed to keep doing that too.

The ACCC has useful ‘guides’ and some videos on their website. Find those here.

… and look at COSBOA’s Carbon Tax calculator

One other law that hasn’t changed is the law that says, when you are setting your rates, you can’t swap notes with your competitors and simply copy whatever they’re doing. You’re meant to make your own decisions and act independently.

So, if you’re going to make some independent decisions about the impact of the carbon tax on your business, where do you get help?

Our friends at the Council of Small Businesses of Australia (COSBOA) have produced something quite handy. It’s their carbon tax calculator. If you don’t want just to wait to see whether your supplier invoices move around, it’s well worth a look.

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