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Protocol Guidelines

6. Tax concessions

Diplomatic missions, consular posts and privileged individuals may be entitled to exemptions from customs duty and refunds of a range of taxes.

For motor vehicles, see chapter 7.

6.1 Customs duty exemptions

Missions, posts and privileged individuals can import or purchase goods free of customs duty for:

  • official use — for the reasonable requirements of the mission or post, or
  • personal use — for the reasonable personal requirements of the individual or a dependent family member of the individual's household in Australia.

To qualify for customs duty exemptions, administrative and technical staff and consular employees must import or purchase the goods within six months of arriving in Australia.

Customs duty exemptions are not available to Australian citizens, including dual nationals, or permanent residents.

6.1.1 Direct imports

In addition to customs duty exemptions, missions, posts and privileged individuals can also gain exemptions from Goods and Services Tax (GST),Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) and Luxury Car Tax (LCT) for goods they import directly from overseas. Applications to release directly imported goods (except motor vehicles — see Chapter 7) free of customs duty, GST and WET should be submitted (together with shipping documents or invoices) using Australian Border Force (ABF) form B615 — Application for Release of Goods from Customs Control to Diplomatic and Consular Personnel. This form can be submitted to act.op.command@abf.gov.au.

6.1.2 Import of tobacco products

Tobacco products, such as cigarettes, shisha/molasses tobacco and loose-leaf tobacco, can be imported both by individuals (diplomats, consular officials and privileged individuals) and organizations (missions, consulates and posts) with an import permit. The import permit is issued by the Department of Home Affairs — see 1537 - Application for permission to import tobacco (abf.gov.au). This permit must be obtained prior to import. Questions about the permit can be directed to permits@homeaffairs.gov.au.

Concessional limits for the import of tobacco products exempt from customs duties and taxes apply. Missions, posts and privileged individuals should continue to submit the Australian Border Force (ABF) form B615 — Application for Release of Goods from Customs Control to Diplomatic and Consular Personnel available on the ABF website. Questions about the process to seek customs duty exemption can be directed to act.op.command@abf.gov.au

6.1.3 Customs Identification Number

Missions, posts and privileged individuals should contact the ABF's ACT Regional Office at act.op.command@abf.gov.au to obtain a Customs Identification Number to claim customs duty exemptions, for instance on personal effects and motor vehicles. This is available after Protocol Branch completes arrival arrangements, including issue of identity cards.

Administrative and technical staff and consular employees must quote their mission's or post's Customs Identification Number when importing personal effects (other than motor vehicles — for which an individual number is required) after arriving in Australia.

Customs clearance of goods from bonded warehouses or duty free shops is normally handled either by the warehouse or shop owner, or by a licensed customs broker.

6.2 Indirect Tax Concession Scheme

The Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS) allows missions, posts headed by career consuls and privileged individuals to claim refunds of the following taxes on goods and services they purchase in Australia:

  • GST
  • LCT
  • Wine Equalisation Tax (WET)
  • excise duty

ITCS benefits are extended to each country's mission, posts and privileged individuals on a reciprocal basis – that is, Australia's mission, posts and privileged individuals in that country enjoy broadly comparable tax concessions.

Full details of the ITCS – how it works, each country's entitlements, what is and is not covered and how to claim refunds – can be found on the website of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Note: claims by privileged individuals must be included in claims submitted by missions or posts; they cannot be submitted by individuals. Refunds are paid to a single nominated mission or post bank account.

For alcohol and tobacco products purchased under the ITCS, current six month limits are:

  • missions and posts for official use: 260 litres of spirits, liqueurs or spirituous liquors, 1,000 litres of beer and 20,000 cigarettes
  • privileged individuals for personal use: half the above mission/post entitlements.

Missions seeking to enter the ITCS should contact Protocol Branch protocol.branch@dfat.gov.au. As a general rule, missions and posts will be offered the standard plus package, provided broadly reciprocal benefits are available to Australia in their countries.

6.2.1 Construction and renovation arrangements

GST refunds in connection with construction and renovation projects require separate arrangements under the ITCS. Missions wishing to enter into such an arrangement should contact Protocol Branch at an early stage before the project commences. Key points to note:

  • the work should relate to chancery or office premises, or the official residence of a head of mission or post
  • the total cost of the project must be at least A$10,000
  • concessions are agreed on a reciprocal basis.

6.2.2 Disposal of goods purchased under privilege

If goods purchased under privilege are disposed of – that is, sold, lent, hired, gifted, exchanged or traded – to/with a non-privileged person in Australia within two years (three years for motor vehicles) of importation or purchase, the mission, post or privileged individual will be required to pay customs duty and taxes (less depreciation for the period of ownership).

6.3 Income earned in Australia

6.3.1 Missions, posts and privileged individuals

Missions and posts do not pay tax on interest earned on official bank accounts in Australia. This exemption also applies to interest earned on government securities, bonds, debentures and distributions from unit trusts.

Home-based diplomatic and consular staff posted to Australia do not pay income tax on their official salaries and allowances, nor on income from sources outside Australia.

Income derived by privileged individuals from sources inside Australia, including bank interest, share market dealings, company dividends and real estate dealings is taxable. If this income is above the income tax free threshold, or if privileged individuals wish to claim deductions on, or refunds of, tax already deducted from this income, they are required to complete and submit an income tax return to the ATO.

Privileged individuals may also apply to the ATO for a Tax File Number, which is required to avoid automatic tax deductions from interest earned on bank accounts and other Australian investments.

Where there is a double taxation agreement in place between Australia and a country, the position of privileged individuals from that country in Australia will also be governed by that agreement.

6.3.2 Locally engaged staff and other Australian citizens or permanent residents

Locally engaged staff (see chapter 10) and other mission or post staff who are Australian citizens or permanent residents are required to pay Australian income tax on their salaries and allowances.

 

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