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Import Processing Charges Amendment Bill
Date Introduced: 25 March 1999
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: The amendments relating to
definitions, the new screening charge and the saving provision
commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation, or failing that,
six months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. The amendment
clarifying the definition of a 'line' in a cargo report is to take
effect retrospectively from 26 February 1997 which was the day on
which the Import Processing Charges Act 1997 received
To amend the
amount of the screening charge payable by special reporters of low
The reader is also referred to the Bills Digest
on the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999.
In 1997 the Government introduced charges to
recover the Australian Customs Service's costs of processing goods
imported into Australia by air or sea. A screening charge for goods
(other than prescribed goods) that are transported to Australia in
the same ship or aircraft, and have a value not exceeding $250, was
imposed by the Import Processing Charges Act 1997 and
commenced on 26 February 1997.
Section 64ABC of the Customs Act 1901
(the Customs Act) states that a person is liable to pay a screening
charge when they communicate to the Australian Customs Service
(ACS) a documentary report or an electronic report that:
- is, or is part of, a cargo report of goods intended to be, or
that have been, unloaded from an aircraft at a particular airport,
- relates, in whole or part, to a consignment of goods that does
not require entry(1), and
- provides particulars of the consignment, and
- identifies a person who has a beneficial interest in the goods
in the consignment.
The rate of the screening charge is $2.40 for
each line of the documentary or electronic report that is, or is
part of, a cargo report, or a prescribed amount not exceeding
Amendments proposed by the Customs Amendment
Bill (No. 2) 1999 will introduce a new High Volume Low Value
Reporting Scheme for bulk consignments of documents, such as
company reports, financial statements, legal documents and personal
correspondence, and for mail order consignments, where the value of
each consignment does not exceed $250 and where the customs duty
and sales tax payable does not exceed $50.
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the
Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999.
Item 1 of Schedule 1 attempts
to clarify the intention of the Import Processing Charges Act
1997 (the Principal Act) by referring to both a documentary
report and an electronic report in the definition of a 'line' in a
cargo report. This amendment is to take effect retrospectively from
26 February 1997 which was the day on which the Principal Act
received the Royal Assent.
Items 2-5 add new definitions
of 'low value cargo', 'mail-order house', 'reportable document' and
'special reporter' to conform with the definitions used in proposed
new section 63A of the Customs Act.
Item 6 replaces Section
7 of the Principal Act and introduces the new screening
charge for reports made under the new registration and reporting
scheme proposed by the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999. The
amount of the new screening charge will be $45 for bulk
consignments of low value sent from a mail-order house, or for low
value consignments of reportable documents [new paragraphs
7(b) and (c)].
The purpose of new paragraph
7(a) is to ensure that a charge of $2.40 per line of a
cargo report (or a prescribed amount not exceeding $3.60) will
continue to apply unless, either
- new paragraphs 7(b), (c) or (d) of the Principal Act apply,
- the exemption in new subsection 64ABC(1A) of the Customs Act
(namely, reports of low value cargo made by special reporters in
accordance with the prescribed reporting requirements) is met.
There would appear to be a drafting error in
this section of the Bill. New paragraphs 7(a), (b), (c) and
(d) are alternatives and so the word 'and' at the end of
paragraphs 7(a), (b) and (c) should read 'or'.
The amount of the screening fee should be
related to, and be commensurate with the work involved by the ACS
in providing the screening services. There have been a number of
cases in the High Court and the Federal Court on this matter. In
The General Practitioners Society in Australia and Others v.
The Commonwealth of Australia(2) the High Court held that the
fee provided by section 16C(2) of the Health Insurance Act
1973 was not a tax but a fee for services rendered, being the
price which a medical practitioner seeking to become an 'approved'
pathology practitioner must pay for having the application
processed by the Minister.
In Air Caledonie International v. The
Commonwealth(3) the High Court held that the fee which section
34A of the Migration Act 1958 purported to be exacted for
immigration clearance of passengers was a tax, at least in so far
as it related to passengers who were Australian citizens. The fee
was to be collected by the international air operator who was made
liable to pay it to the Commonwealth regardless of whether the fee
had been or could be actually collected from the passenger. The fee
had no relationship to the actual cost of processing.
On the criteria of these cases, if the charges
for screening bulk consignments of cargo of low value are excessive
in relation to Customs' costs in processing the cargoes, then the
screening charges could be considered exactions in the nature of a
tax. However, the amount of the fee could be designed so as to
avoid this possible constitutional pitfall.(4)
- Section 68 of the Customs Act requires all goods imported into
Australia to be entered. There are a number of exceptions to this
requirement. Under paragraph 68(1)(f) of the Customs Act, if the
goods are valued at less than $250, an entry is not required. The
ACS screens the cargo report to identify consignments that may be
released without an entry.
- (1979-80) 145 CLR 532.
- (1988) 165 CLR 462 F.C. 88/056.
- For a fuller discussion of these constitutional issues the
reader is referred to:
Pulle, Bernard, 'Proposed changes to financing
aged care: some tax and constitutional issues: possible
implications of the 10 February 1997 Exposure Draft of the Aged
Care Bill 1997', Current Issues Brief, No. 28 1996-97, p.
6 May 1999
Bills Digest Service
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