Voluntary disclosures

​A voluntary disclosure is the communication to the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) through a written error notice of an error, omission or adjustment in a statement (excluding outturn or cargo reports) made to the Department, such as an error in an import or export declaration.   

Examples of an identified error or omission include:

  • adjustments to valuation of imported or exported goods
    • an error or omission in the customs value
    • adjustments to the customs value relating to transfer pricing
  • an incorrect tariff classification
  • an incorrectly applied Tariff Concession Order.

Eligibility for protection from penalties and prosecution

A voluntary disclosure must disclose fully, truthfully and voluntarily, the details of the relevant import or export declarations and the nature of the errors. If you make a voluntary disclosure, you are protected from offences in sections 243T and 243U of the Customs Act 1901 (the Act) that relate to false or misleading statements.

An error notice is not taken to be given voluntarily if it is given after the Department exercises powers under a customs-related law to verify information in the statement (such as a 214AD notice), or if an infringement is served relating to the statement or if proceedings have commenced in relation to the statement.

Any queries regarding your eligibility for protection from these offences can be forwarded to the Voluntary Disclosures unit.

Submitting a voluntary disclosure

A voluntary disclosure can be made by amending a declaration in the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) or through a written declaration to an Australian Border Force (ABF) Officer outlining the nature of the errors and the relevant declarations.

Amendments to declarations within the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) and thresholds for single manual payment requests

Import declarations lodged in the ICS could contain errors that result in short payment of duty. In situations where a short payment of duty has been made, an importer/owner is required to pay the correct amount of duty to satisfy their legislative obligations under the Act.

For import declarations where multiple errors have occurred on numerous lines, an importer/owner can make an application to pay additional duty on a large number of ICS import declarations through a single manual payment (bulk amendment).

Line amendments for import declarations of 50 lines or less

If the number of lines to be amended is 50 or less, it is the responsibility of the importer or their broker to amend the lines within the ICS. The ICS will automatically calculate any duty or Goods and Services Tax (GST) owing.

Line amendments for import declarations of more than 50 lines

Amendments can still be made by the importer or their broker for disclosures involving more than 50 lines. However, where an importer wants to pay additional duty or GST on a large number of ICS import declarations through a single payment in connection with a voluntary disclosure request, the Voluntary Disclosures unit can consider this on a case by case basis. Details must be specified in the voluntary disclosure request.

Depending upon the nature of the error, omission or adjustment you might also be asked to provide some additional information to assist in the processing of a disclosure. This might include:

  • a copy of an extract of the ICS import declaration data for the relevant disclosure period in an Excel spreadsheet format, including your adjustment calculations, full import declarations numbers and declaration type (example, such as Nature 10, 20, 30)
  • a signed letter with Authority To Act on behalf of the importer or exporter if relevant
  • supporting documentation, including supplier invoices, credit/debit notes, journal ledgers and intercompany loan/netting documents and statements
  • copies of relevant Tariff and/or Valuation Advices from the ABF
  • details of any Advance Pricing Agreements with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • details of any ATO GST liability reassessment if the importer is registered with the GST Deferral Scheme.

Voluntary disclosure submissions will be processed more efficiently when all the relevant information is provided with the error notice.

The Voluntary Disclosures unit will confirm receipt of your submission within five working days.

Voluntary disclosures relating to transfer pricing

Where a voluntary disclosure involves transfer pricing between related parties, any adjustments to goods must be submitted as soon as the data becomes available and should be submitted in line with your financial reporting obligations. 

Claiming a refund

Where a voluntary disclosure results in an overpayment of customs duty, a claim for a refund can be lodged with the ABF. For more information see refund of customs import duty.

Seeking advice

While not required when disclosing an error, you might consider whether an application for a Tariff Advice, Valuation Advice, or Origin Advice with the ABF is necessary, to determine the correct origin or tariff classification of the goods and/or the valuation methodology to be applied to the adjustment.

If you have received a Tariff, Valuation, or Origin Advice please include this information in your voluntary disclosure submission.

You could consider whether an existing Tariff Advice or Valuation Advice requires amendment.

Further information on the valuation and tariff advice systems is available.

Contact us

The Voluntary Disclosures unit manages all voluntary disclosure requests by companies. Lodgement of your submission, advice and queries can be emailed to vdi@abf.gov.au.