Australian Government - Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

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Refund of Customs Import Duty

Refunds of Customs import duty frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The National Refunds Centre (NRC), based in Port Adelaide South Australia, is a section within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS).

The NRC is responsible for the management of refunds of Customs import duty and indirect taxes collected through the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) on a full import declaration (FID), self-assessed clearance (SAC), or periodic return (return).

There are other circumstances in which you may also be eligible for a refund of duty and/or indirect taxes. These include the Customs duty collected via ACBPS Postal Assessments, and on the spot ACBPS assessments issued at international airports, or seaports.

For more information about these circumstances please browse the ACBPS website Customs Information and Support Centre.

What is a refund?

Under certain circumstances prescribed by the Customs Act 1901 and Customs Regulations 1926 you may be entitled to a refund of some, or all, of the Customs duty that you have paid on imported goods.

The fact sheet Refunds of Customs Import Duty provides information of the circumstances that a refund may be applied for.

How can I make a refund application?

A refund application is lodged by making amendments to the import declaration, SAC or return under which your goods were cleared into Australia.

The quickest and most common method to amend the declaration is to request your broker to lodge the amendment on your behalf electronically indicating the particulars that have been changed.

Alternatively you can complete a Refund Application form (B653). This form is available on the ACBPS website at http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page4288.asp. Please read the FAQs and guide for completing a Refund Application form to ensure that you are eligible. 

Fact sheet Refunds of Customs Import Duty provides information on the methods for lodging a refund application.

Who is eligible to make a refund application?

The ‘owner’ of the goods at the time of importation may make a refund application.  For ACBPS purposes, you are the owner if you lodged the import declaration, SAC or return for the goods and paid Customs duty and taxes to ACBPS.

Check the original import declaration, SAC or return to verify if you are shown as the owner.

Note: In some cases ACBPS is unable to process a refund application as the applicant is not the actual importer and owner of the goods at the time of importation.

For example, an Australian consumer purchases goods from an overseas supplier. The price paid to the overseas supplier includes importation costs (including payment of Customs duty and taxes) and delivery of the goods to the consumer.

In this example, the overseas supplier lodges the importation declaration.  They are the owner of the goods at the time of importation and therefore the owner who may seek a refund of Customs duty.

Fact sheet Refunds of Customs Import Duty provides information on eligibility for a refund application.

What is the time limit to make and lodge a refund application?

The time limit to lodge a refund application is prescribed by the Customs Act 1901 and Customs Regulations 1926.  Generally the period for lodging a refund is within 4 years after the date on which the Customs duty was first paid.

If you are claiming a refund because your goods have deteriorated, been damaged, lost or stolen or goods that were not consigned, you must lodge the refund application within fourteen days after the goods were released from ACBPS or Department of Agriculture control.

If you are lodging refund applications for goods that may be treated under certain free trade agreements (FTA), then you must ensure you meet the legislated terms of the FTA contained in the Customs Act 1901 and Customs Regulations 1926.  In some cases this means that a certificate of origin for the goods must be in force at the time the application is made.

The fact sheet Refunds of Customs Import Duty provides information on the time limits for lodging a refund application.

What do I need to provide ACBPS to get my refund?

Whether your refund application is lodged electronically or in an approved form, you must quote the appropriate reason code that indicates the refund circumstance under which you are applying for. (See the fact sheet Refunds of Customs Import Duty for a list of reason codes and lodgment options). You must also provide payment details to receive your refund should it be approved.

Depending on the type of refund you are applying for, different forms of evidence will be needed such as:

  • A copy of the invoice
  • Shipping documents
  • Other supporting documentation that directly relates to the refund reason code.

How long will it take to get my refund?

The NRC operates via a service standard of 30 days to make an assessment regarding your refund application once all necessary information has been provided.

Should your application become subject to verification, you will have 30 calendar days to provide the information requested by ACBPS, during which processing of the application is placed on hold.

At the end of this period, ACBPS will make a decision to either approve or reject the application based on the information you provided.

If your refund application is approved, ACBPS will process payment through electronic funds transfer (EFT) within 3 to 5 working days.

What is the difference between a refund of Customs duty and the Tourist Refund Scheme?

The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) allows Australians and overseas visitors who are leaving Australia to claim a refund, subject to certain conditions, of the goods and services tax (GST) and wine equalisation tax (WET) paid on goods bought in Australia. For information about the TRS, see the ACBPS webpage for the Tourist Refund Scheme.

What is the difference between a refund and a drawback?

ACBPS administers the Duty Drawback Scheme to assist Australian exporters. A drawback is a refund of Customs duty paid on imported goods where those goods will be treated, processed, or incorporated in other goods for export; or are exported unused since importation.

For information on Drawbacks, go to the Export Concessions Duty Drawback Scheme fact sheet.

You cannot claim a refund if a drawback of the import duty has already been paid.

I paid Customs duty on goods I imported but I returned them to the supplier because I changed my mind. Can I get a refund of the duty?

No. Unfortunately, change of mind is not a refund circumstance under the legislation.

However, as an alternative option if you export the imported goods, subject to certain conditions, you may be entitled to a drawback of the duty paid.

For information on Drawbacks, go to the Export Concessions Duty Drawback Scheme fact sheet.

I paid Customs duty on goods I imported and now I can’t sell them. Can I get a refund of the duty?

No. Unfortunately, 'goods not sold' is not a refund circumstance under the legislation.

However, as an alternative option if you export the imported goods, subject to certain conditions, you may be entitled to a drawback of the duty paid.

For information on Drawbacks, go to the Export Concessions Duty Drawback Scheme fact sheet.

I purchased goods from overseas for personal use. They will not be used for commercial purposes. Can I get a refund of the Customs duty?

All imported goods into Australia that have a Customs Value of over $1000 are subject to customs duty and indirect tax charges, regardless of whether they are for commercial purposes or for personal use.

You can only get a refund of these charges if the legislated prescribed circumstances occur. To check if you are eligible, go to the Refunds of Customs Import Duty fact sheet.

The goods I imported were only intended to be imported temporarily, and then they were returned overseas afterwards. Can I get a refund of the Customs duty?

While there is not a specific refund circumstance under the legislation for temporary imports, ACBPS may determine that the goods meet refund circumstance 126 (1)(e) “E” if a retrospective security is issued. Go to the Refunds of Customs Import Duty fact sheet for more information on refund circumstances

Retrospective securities are subject to certain conditions. To check if you are eligible, contact the National Temporary Imports and Securities section at ntis@customs.gov.au.

Another option if you export the imported goods, subject to certain conditions, is a drawback of the duty paid.

For information on Drawbacks, go to the Export Concessions Duty Drawback Scheme fact sheet.

What are the refund reasons and circumstances that I can make an application for refund?

Go to the Refunds of Customs Import Duty fact sheet for more information on refund circumstances.