In Australia, customs brokers are licenced under Section 183C of the Customs Act 1901. Customs brokers [generally] undertake a course of study, gain work experience and submit a portfolio before being granted a licence. Customs brokers protect the borders as much as the Australian Border Force [ABF].

Import declarations [Section 71A (1)] under the value of $1000 AUD do  not  need to be communicated to the ABF by licenced customs brokers; they can be submitted by any person who has access to the Integrated Cargo System [ICS].

The ABF over the past five years has reported that there were:

  • 197,549 Self Assessed Clearances [combined air and sea] in 2014
  • 186,450 Self Assessed Clearances [combined air and sea] in 2015
  • 195,342 Self Assessed Clearances [combined air and sea] in 2016
  • 213,447 Self Assessed Clearances [combined air and sea] in 2017
  • 233,256 Self Assessed Clearances [combined air and sea] in 2018 [approximately 639 a day]

The ABF has confirmed that Self Assessed Clearances [SACs]  can  be lodged off-shore [out of Australia]; meaning the person lodging the SAC does not need to be licensed [S183C] nor have any character test nor any knowledge of the Customs Act 1901.


The ABF has reminded industry in early 2019 that customs brokers are not allowed to submit customs declarations while out of the Commonwealth of Australia, however the current stance allows the potential of 233,256 SAC’s a year to be lodged off-shore. Let’s remember that the amount of SAC’s increase year on year and more and more organisations within the industry are off-shoring their work to save money.

Lodging a SAC should not water-down the responsibilities surrounding the accompanying legislation such as the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA], the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme [NICNAS], Convention on International Trade [CITES], Department of the Environment and Energy [DEH], Department of Agriculture or the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development – but – this is exactly what is happening – as long as the paperwork is less than $1000 AUD a SAC is lodged in more than not situations by junior staff on-shore  or  off-shore who do not have the training to determine what items should / should not be not be lodged via a SAC.

I haven’t even touched on the issue of Price Related Costs [S154 (1)]; just because the value is less than $1000 AUD does not mean that the value really is less than the Tax Free Threshold [TFT], costs such as packing, fumigation, inland transport, testing, certification and commissions also need to be taken into account in determining price [S154(1)]. It is my opinion that SACs should be lodged only by Australian licenced customs brokers who have either permanent residency or who are Australian citizens.