6. Tax concessions
6.1 Customs duty exemptions
Missions, posts and eligible 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.
Administrative and technical staff and consular employees must import or purchase goods within six months of arriving in Australia to qualify for customs duty exemptions.
Customs duty exemptions are not available to Australian citizens, dual nationals or permanent residents.
6.1.1 Direct imports
In addition to customs duty exemptions, missions, posts and eligible individuals may be exempt 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 should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6.1.2 Import of tobacco products
Tobacco products, such as cigarettes, shisha/molasses tobacco and loose-leaf tobacco, can be imported by missions and eligible individuals with an import permit. The import permit is issued by the Department of Home Affairs — see Application for Permission to Import Tobacco (abf.gov.au). This permit must be obtained prior to import.
Concessional limits for the import of tobacco products exempt from customs duties and taxes apply. Missions and eligible individuals should also submit the ABF form B615 — Application for Release of Goods from Customs Control to Diplomatic and Consular Personnel. Questions about the customs duty exemption process can be directed to email@example.com.
6.1.3 Customs Identification Number
Missions/posts/offices are required to provide an arrival notification form to Protocol Branch promptly after arrival of a new officials. ABF will only issue a customs identification number (CCID) after Protocol Branch has forwarded this form and other arrival arrangements, including issuing a DFAT identity card have been completed.
Administrative and technical staff and consular employees must quote their mission's or post's CCID when importing personal effects (other than motor vehicles — for which an individual number is required) after arriving in Australia.
6.2 Limits on alcohol and tobacco
Limits on alcohol and tobacco products purchased under the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS) or duty free are:
- missions and posts for official use: 260 litres of spirits, liqueurs or spirituous liquors, 1,000 litres of beer and 20,000 cigarettes every six months
- eligible individuals for personal use: half the above mission/post entitlements.
6.3 Indirect Tax Concession Scheme
The Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS) allows missions and eligible individuals to claim refunds of the following duties and taxes on goods and services they purchase in Australia:
- Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- Luxury Car Tax (LCT)
- Wine Equalisation Tax (WET)
- Excise duty
ITCS benefits are extended to each country's mission, posts and eligible individuals on a reciprocal basis – that is, Australia's mission, posts and eligible individuals in that country enjoy broadly comparable tax concessions.
Full details of the ITCS, including how it works, each country's entitlements, what is and isn’t covered and how to claim refunds, can be found on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.
Claims by officers must be submitted by missions as a group and can’t be submitted individually. Refunds are paid to a single nominated mission or post bank account.
Missions seeking to enter the ITCS or upgrade their concessions should contact Protocol Branch: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
6.3.1 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 before the project commences. The following conditions apply:
- 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.
6.3.2 Disposal of goods purchased under privilege
If goods purchased under privilege are disposed of – that is, sold, lent, hired, gifted, exchanged or traded – to or with a non-privileged person in Australia within two years (three years for motor vehicles) of import or purchase, the mission, post or officer must pay customs duty and taxes (less depreciation for the period of ownership).
6.4 Income earned in Australia
6.4.1 Missions, posts and accredited 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 accredited 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 eligible 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.
Accredited 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 accredited individuals from that country in Australia will also be governed by that agreement.
Income tax arrangements vary for accredited officers of international organisations. Protocol Branch (email@example.com) can provide further information if required.
6.4.2 Locally engaged staff
Locally engaged staff (see chapter 10) who are Australian citizens or permanent residents are required to pay Australian income tax on their salaries and allowances.