In October 2016, the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) in Australia published DIBPN 2016/35, Voluntary Disclosures under Section 243T and Section 243U Customs Act 1901 (Cth). In this notice, DIBP, now the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), highlighted their commitment to working with the industry to encourage higher levels of voluntary compliance by providing increased transparency to the regulatory trade environment.
UPDATE: Since the original publication of this blog post, the volume of voluntary disclosures has increased by over 20%, with total unpaid revenue of AUD $35 million being recovered for importations declared in 2017.
A voluntary disclosure is the communication of a written notice of an error, omission, or adjustment in statements made to DHA. If you make such disclosures voluntarily, before the DHA instigates any queries or proceedings, you will likely be protected from penalties that would otherwise be imposed.
In line with the WTO Voluntary Compliance Framework, voluntary disclosures reward shared responsibility for customs and trade compliance in response to the growth in global trade and the challenges of targeting limited resources towards effective inspection efforts.
DHA has emphasised that for non-compliant parties in international trade transactions who are demonstrably trying to comply, education and awareness treatment may be taken rather than, or in combination with, reduced punitive sanctions.
Likewise, they also reiterated their continued efforts in carrying out compliance activities to detect errors or omissions and issue the most serious penalties for those who deliberately do not comply, or who are considered to have avoided their compliance responsibilities through a lack of internal controls.
You might be thinking that with the DHA’s marketing messaging around the commencement of the Australian Trusted Trader Programme, you would be forgiven for having developed some immunity following repeated exposure to the phrase “working with industry”.
However, this language is simply demonstrative of Australia’s commitment as a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation to deliver practical measures that strengthen global trade through reduced regulatory and procedural burden.
With the number of Australian Trusted Trader accreditations that have been and continue to be processed, DHA resources are now able to increasingly orient towards the import activity of non-accredited organisations.
If you’re reading this and wondering what exactly it is that you are being encouraged to voluntarily disclose, and how errors or omissions on past declarations can be identified, our blog on Compliance in Australia provides an indication.
Tradewin has helped hundreds of clients to recognise areas that should be considered, or perhaps more regularly reviewed, and provided the tools or services to enable them to do so. We can also assist by conducting customs compliance risk assessments, which dive deep into your historical import declaration and associated data to identify potential issues, a process that also frequently uncovers duty savings as well.
If any of the above has hit a nerve, or if you have any queries, get in touch with us today, and let us empower you to set the tone of your dealings with DHA off on the right foot.