Uber, Airbnb and fashion retailer ASOS are all considered digital disruptors in the sectors they play in – but the Australian Government also sees them as disruptors to the tax system.

So much so that these emerging internet players are now in the sights of the federal Treasurer Joe Hockey as he moves to transform Australia's tax system.

"Disruptive technologies are eroding the powers of government," Hockey said in an address to the Institute of Public Affairs.

Targeting emerging digital business models represents a new front in the Government's war on tax avoidance.

It adds a new dimension to the tax avoidance debate that has dominated headlines over the past six months – which has concerned mostly large firms such as Google and the amount of tax they pay in Australia.

Though Hockey initially backed away from a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), he has recently started talking up such a crackdown again - for which there is bilateral - and public - support.

In addition to those at the bigger end of technology town, it now appears that IT's rising stars – its disruptors – are also seen as one of the big challenges to Australian taxation.

Licensing threatened

One of Hockey's key concerns with digital disruptors is that they are putting new technology into the hands of consumers, "empowering [them] to the extent that they are breaking down the traditional barriers of distance and also smashing the barrier of regulation."

"Governments have less impact on domestic economies than at any time in history," Hockey said.

He illustrated this with what he called "the diminution in the value of traditional government issued licences".

"A gaming license, a banking license, transport licenses and broadcasting licenses, just to name a few, are being disrupted every day in both value and effect by new technologies," Hockey said.

Transport license revenue faces disruption from the likes of ride-sharing service Uber.

"A friend of mine was visiting me from the United States," Hockey recalled.

"After we had caught up for a coffee, I offered to call him a taxi. And he said, 'No, no, I've got Uber' - now that's not exactly surprising anymore.

"But as he's driving off in this Uber car I ask myself a few questions: Firstly, where did that transaction occur? Well, he used his American credit card in the United States to procure the service.

"Secondly, was the guy driving the car charging GST?

"Thirdly, was the guy driving the car paying tax?

"And finally, what actually happens to the taxi driver that works so damn hard, is charging GST, paying tax, and has the cost of a taxi plate embedded in the asset value?"

Likewise, the growing popularity of online clothes shopping site ASOS is keeping the Treasurer up at night.

"Four cargo planes of ASOS packages arrive in Australia each and every week," he told the IPA.

"These clothes are bought sight unseen, and simply returned to an Australian drop off location if an exchange is required.

"Users can pay a flat yearly fee for unlimited three day express shipping from the UK. For orders less than $1000, potentially neither ASOS nor the consumers pay the GST."

The Government is canvassing whether or not to lower the GST-free threshold for goods purchased online from its current level of $1000.

Large bricks-and-mortar Australian retailers have long lobbied for such a change, believing they are at a disadvantage by having to charge GST.

The Treasurer also singled out Airbnb and the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba as digital disruptors that could also be sources of more tax dollars.

"Consumer sovereignty is challenging how we govern, how we regulate and how we collect tax," Hockey said.

"These are the disruptive forces our tax system must face up to."