For warehouses

​​Warehouses are licensed under section 79 of the Customs Act 1901.

Activities permitted in warehouses are limited to protect both the security of the goods and the revenue payable to the Commonwealth. Approved activities may include storage, blending, unpacking, repacking and packaging of certain types of goods. Any activities that involve ‘value adding’ are not permitted in a warehouse.

We issue warehouse licences to a specified licence holder, who may be an individual, company or partnership. Licences cannot be granted to a trust but may be granted to a trustee.

Each licence is issued for a specific place. Licensees with more than one warehouse require a licence for each of their premises. Licensees who want to move premises or make substantial changes to the existing licensed site must be granted approval to vary their licence before any changes are made.

In some international publications, warehouses are referred to as bonds or bonded warehouses. This is a legacy from the use of bonds as security for licensed premises and does not have a meaning under Australia’s current legislative regime. However, the term underbond movement is still used administratively to refer to the movement of goods still subject to customs control.

Types of warehouse

Warehouse licences are issued for particular purposes.

Private warehouse

The licence holder is the owner of the warehoused goods

General warehouse

The licence holder is storing goods on behalf of other owner/s

Provedores and flight catering bonds

The licence holder stores goods which are then supplied to international aircraft or vessels as aircraft or ships stores

Duty free store

Duty-free stores are a type of warehouse, licensed under section 79 of the Customs Act 1901.

There are three types of duty free shops, which are determined by reference to their location and whether they are selling to departing or arriving travellers. They are:

  • on-airport inwards duty free stores
  • on-airport outwards duty free stores
  • off-airport outwards duty free stores.

The licensed area of any one duty free store warehouse licence must be one contiguous area, not split across two separated licensed areas.

Duty free sales must only be made to relevant travellers. The definition of relevant traveller changes for inwards and outwards duty free sales. In summary, for outwards duty free sales a relevant traveller is a person who intends to make an international flight or voyage as a passenger, pilot or crew member and an inwards relevant traveller is a person arriving after a flight or voyage only up until they have cleared through the Entry Control Point.

There are limits on the types, amounts or values of duty free goods that travellers may purchase on either inwards or outwards international journeys.
Duty free operators are obliged to inform travellers about the limits that apply to them in the context of their international travel plans.  It is also a licence condition that duty free operators are obliged to comply with these concession limits when selling duty free goods.

Failure to meet any licence conditions may lead to a range of administrative actions by the ABF, including but not limited to education and awareness initiatives through to the issuing of infringement notices or prosecution for systemic or serious breaches.

More information for operators of duty free shop can be found in the Duty Free Shop Operators Guide.

Excise equivalent goods warehouse

With the exception of catering bonds, provedores and duty free shops, all private and general warehouses that are to store excise equivalent goods (EEG), either solely or in addition to other goods, must be licensed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Excise equivalent goods are imported alcohol, tobacco and fuel that, if they had been produced or manufactured in Australia, would have been subject to excise duty. The ATO also  administer excise licences and permission to sell excisable goods under the Parts IV and VI of the Excise Act 1901.

You should apply to the ATO for a customs warehouse licence if you:

  • intend to store EEGs in a warehouse or
  • are an operator of one or more warehouses and at least one of your warehouses stores EEGs.

Companies applying for a licence to operate a catering bond, provedore, or a duty free shop may also need to obtain the appropriate additional licence/s from the ATO. More information on Excise and excise equivalent goods is available.