Ask LH: Do I Need To Register For GST?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently did a photoshoot for a company my cousin works for. The photos were entirely free and I provided them with a selection with my watermark on them. The company has since got in contact with me, asking to buy the rights to the images so they can edit them and use them in publications.

I don’t have an ABN, so am I allowed to sell my images? If I do, what are the tax implications? Is there any way to provide a tax receipt? And what would be the market value for this kind of sale?

Thanks, Taxing Images

GST picture from Shutterstock

Dear TI,

First, our usual warning: we’re not registered tax experts, so for specific advice, you should speak to a professional. With that said, the broad outlines of the issue are fairly clear.

If you’re not planning to set up as a business and this is a one-off event, then acquiring an ABN isn’t going to be worth the hassle. Depending on what you were intending to charge, your cousin might be better off taking you out for a meal and then charging it back to company expenses. As commenters below suggest, you can also opt-out if its a one-off.

However, if the company wants a tax invoice or you intend to continue in this line of work, then you will need to register for an ABN and charge GST. It’s not an especially onerous process, but it will mean you need to lodge a quarterly BAS as well as your annual income tax return.

As for the question of how much you should charge, the short answer is a combination of how much the market will bear and how you value your time and equipment. Our article on how to set freelance rates can help you out there.


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