SWIM Schools Australia

GST and Swim Lessons

ASCTA/SWIM Schools Australia and the SWIM Schools Australia Advisory Committee, have been involved in discussions with the ATO in the update of the Fact Sheet regarding GST and Personal Aquatic Survival Skills. The current Fact Sheet has been withdrawn from the ATO website until the review is complete and we will provide an update as soon as it is available again. In the meantime, the following is our interpretation of where things are heading and some points for you to consider.

SWIM Schools Australia is working closely with the ATO to change the terminology within the fact sheet to more generic terms relating to our whole industry. We are also seeking to have the SWIM Schools Australia Teacher Courses recognised as a qualified Course provider and listed on the Fact Sheet.

‘The GST Act states that the supply of a First Aid or lifesaving course is GST free. The definition of a first aid or lifesaving course includes a course of study or instruction that mainly involves training people in first aid, resuscitation or other similar lifesaving skills including personal aquatic survival skills but not including swimming lessons.’

What is a Swimming Lesson?

The ATO definition of Swimming lessons ‘is something that mainly provides swimming instruction to a proficient swimmer so that the student can improve their swimming skills’. The swim industry refers to this as Squad Training. To generalize and say that swimming lessons are GST free, is both confusing and incorrect. Initially we were advised that to include a water safety component in your program, was enough to cover this. But it is not!

What are Personal Aquatic Survival Skills?

The ATO definition of Personal Aquatic Survival Skills (PASS), ‘is a skill which includes knowing what to do, that allows a person to survive and/or be safe in the water.’

These skills include the following:

  1. Sculling
  2. Treading water
  3. Floating
  4. Safe entry and exit from the water
  5. Techniques for clothed swimming survival
  6. Use of devices to assist rescue, and
  7. Basic swimming skills.

The ATO has advised that all 7 skills must be present in your program to qualify for GST free exemption. You have to have these items listed in writing for your customers to see and be able to present a copy of your lesson criteria to the ATO if they attend your workplace and ask for it. (They have the legal right to do this).

What are basic swimming skills?

Basic swimming skills are those skills people need to prevent them from drowning and/or be able to move away from a dangerous situation in the water. For example, dog paddle and survival strokes (sidestroke, survival backstroke, survival freestyle).

What is a Course?

The ATO uses the word ‘Course’. So, what is a Course?

The original Fact Sheet states ‘If a student is enrolled in and undertaking the Course, it does not matter whether they complete a whole term, individual lesson or series of lessons – nor is it important why they enrolled in the course. What is important is the purpose and content of the Course. If the course content is that of a first aid or lifesaving course and all of the requirements are satisfied, the Course is GST free.’

In Swim School speak, a Course is your various ‘Levels’ of certification. It doesn’t matter if a child is in a Level for 3 months or 2 years. If you offer these 7 criteria over the period of time it takes to complete a ‘level’ you don’t have to do each of the 7 criteria in each lesson. If you offer these 7 criteria over each ‘level’, then you are compliant for GST free.

How does this relate to ‘Learn To Swim’?

You need to consider the content and purpose of your course (e.g. the name of your course in advertising). You may advertise your course as a Learn to Swim program, but it must satisfy the components of personal aquatic survival skills being taught.

If you run a SWIM Schools Australia Swim Safer Week once a term, this is considered part of your overall course. Children must either have a Swim Safer Week Certificate or the personal aquatic survival skills being taught during SSW MUST form part of the certification criteria, for moving from one level up to the next, with age appropriate activities.

Where to from here?

To make sure your Swim School is GST free compliant, you should consider the following:

  • What you call your course/lessons;
  • How you advertise your lessons;
  • Aim of the Course;
  • Content – MUST include all 7 personal aquatic survival skills;
  • Age appropriate progressions;
  • Parents able to see children achieving these skills i.e. listed on certificates;
  • Give some thought to how you describe each activity, and the terminologies you use.

We need to make sure that as an industry we are fully compliant with the GST Legislation. It is a long process to change legislation and we hope the revision of the Fact Sheet will be sufficient in explaining how it all works, and what we need to cover to be fully compliant.

If you aren’t able to satisfy all the listed criteria, then you are required to charge your customers GST.