Bills Digest No. 43 1999-2000 Customs Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 1999

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History
Main Provisions
Contact Officer & Copyright Details

Passage History

Customs Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 1999

Date Introduced: 30 June 1999

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Justice and Customs

Commencement: The amendments relating to electronic lodgement (Schedule 1) and the customs duty deferral facility (Schedule 2) commence on a day or days to fixed by proclamation, or failing that, six months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. The amendment relating to customs agents licenses (Schedule 3) commences on 1 July 2000.


The Bill has three main purposes. They are:

  • to enable applications for refunds of customs duty to be lodged electronically (Schedule 1)
  • to clarify the time when the payment of customs duty on imported goods is due and provide a mechanism for the deferral of payment where considered appropriate (Schedule 2)
  • to increase the length of customs agents licenses from one to three years (Schedule 3).


The proposed amendments relate to non-controversial changes to customs procedures.

Electronic lodgement (Schedule 1)

Electronic lodgement of information to the Australian Customs Service (Customs Service) relating to imported or exercisable goods was first introduced in 1991 under the customs import entry computer (COMPILE) system. At that time it was decided to defer the inclusion of refunding customs duty processes under COMPILE 'until further examination and [the] necessary computer enhancements had taken place'.(1) This has now occurred with the development of the Electronic Lodgement of Refunds (ELOR) system.

According to the Customs Service, ELOR is expected to reduce processing times and consequently the delay in paying refunds as compared to the existing manual system for lodgment.(2) Approximately two thousand three hundred customs agents and importers currently have access to COMPILE. However, those not linked to the COMPILE system will be able to continue manually lodging information. ELOR will reduce the amount of paperwork required by customs agents and brokers as they will not have to produce full documentation for every refund claim as is the current practice. It will also provide an on-line service showing the status of refund applications.

ELOR's establishment cost has already been funded through the industry-based Cargo Automation Development Fund (CADF). Accordingly there should be no direct financial costs for COMPILE users or the Customs service associated with the operation of ELOR.

A post-implementation review will be undertaken twelve months after ELOR's introduction.

Customs duty deferral facility (Schedule 2)

While the Customs Act 1901 (the 'Customs Act') does not specify when customs duty must be paid, current practice is that payment is made before the goods in question are released by the Customs Service for home (i.e. Australian) consumption. The proposed amendments clarify the situation by providing a set time for payment according to the class of the goods. However, the amendments also create a head of power to enable Customs regulations to prescribe the deferral of payment. In introducing the Bill, The Hon Peter Slipper, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, stated that this aspect of the Bill would 'bring the Customs Act into line with the government's GST legislation in so far as the latter creates a link between the payment of customs duty and GST on imports. The GST legislation makes GST on imports payable at the same time, place and manner as customs duty is payable. Where deferral of GST on imports is permitted...these amendments to the Customs legislation will permit a similar deferral of customs duty to be entertained'.(3)

Customs agents licenses (Schedule 3)

A joint Customs Service and industry review of arrangements for the licensing of Customs Agents was undertaken in 1997-98 to update and streamline the licensing system to allow it to operate economically and efficiently on a cost recovery basis. The review recommended that the duration of agents licenses be extended from 1 to 3 years. The review was not published as a public document.

Main Provisions

Electronic lodgement (Schedule 1)

Item 5 of Schedule 1 inserts five new subsections into Section 163 of the Customs Act. They provide heads of power so that regulations can be written to deal with the details of ELOR's operation. A summary of these follows below.

New subsection 163(1AA) relates to manner for making refund applications and the procedures for dealing with them.

New subsection 163(1AB) relates to the time at which electronic applications are taken to have been lodged to the Customs Service. This is an important issue given that applications are subject to time limits.

New subsection 163(1AC) allows for contingency arrangements in relation to refunds etc when ELOR is inoperable. Similar contingency arrangements are already in place for COMPILE under Division 4A of Part IV of the Customs Act.

New subsection 163(1AD) allows for the detailing of circumstances where an application for a refund and/or an application fee for a refund is not required.

New subsection 163(1AE) relates to circumstances where applications for refunds have been created electronically on COMPILE / ELOR but not 'communicated' (i.e. forwarded) to the Customs Service within prescribed time limits. The amendment makes it clear that the application must be actually forwarded to the Customs Service within the relevant time limit for the applicant to be entitled for a refund.

Customs duty deferral facility (Schedule 2)

Item 4 of Schedule 2 inserts a new Section 132AA specifying a set time for payment of customs duty on imported goods. Under the proposed amendment, the general rule will be that duty is to be paid at the time of entry of the goods for home consumption (which is when the Customs Service acknowledge the receipt of an import entry). However, it also creates a head of power for regulations to prescribe some other time, allowing for deferral where appropriate.

 Customs agents licenses (Schedule 3)

Item 128 of Schedule 3 inserts a new Section 183CH(1A).

Current customs agents licenses are valid for a maximum of 12 months and expire on 31 December every year.

The effect of the amendment is that any license issued or renewed between July 31 and December 31 2000 will expire on 31 December 2000 but licenses issued or renewed after the latter date will not expire until 30 June 2003. Following that the next expiry date will be 30 June 2006, and so on, giving a license validity of up to three years.


  1. Customs Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 1999, Explanatory Memorandum, p.3.

  2. Australian Customs Notice No. 99/12, 12 February 1999.

  3. Second Reading Speech, Customs Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 1999, Hon Peter Slipper MP, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 June 1999 p.7863.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Angus Martyn
30 August 1999
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1999

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1999.

Back to top