5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2001   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All  

5.8 Customs is the federal authority responsible for the collection and management of export and import documentation. This information is used by Customs to assess and collect duty and other revenue payable on imported goods, and to monitor and control the physical movement of goods into and out of Australia.

5.9 For exports, consignment information must be lodged with Customs in advance of the departure of the goods, by exporters or their agents. In addition, international shipping and airline companies are required to submit cargo manifests to Customs for each voyage or flight. Separate files are maintained by Customs for export entries and cargo manifests. Export entries submitted electronically account for 97% of all pre-shipment lodgements. However, only 80% of all export manifests are lodged electronically.

5.10 For imports, information must be lodged and cleared before access to the goods can be obtained. Import entries may be lodged well in advance of the expected arrival of the goods. Currently over 98% of import entries are reported electronically to Customs.

Statistical details

5.11 Statistical details currently collected by Customs include:

For both exports and imports

  • HS commodity code;
  • Country of origin (imports) or final destination (exports);
  • Overseas port of loading (imports) or discharge (exports);
  • Australian State of origin and loading (for exports). State of discharge and final destination are identified via port data (for imports);
  • Australian port of lodgement, discharge and final destination (imports) or loading (exports);
  • Mode of transport;
  • Date of arrival in Australia (imports) or departure from Australia (exports). This may be an expected date;
  • Unit of quantity;
  • Quantity;
  • Gross weight - not available on an individual commodity basis for imports;
  • Valuation - for imports, Customs, f.o.b. and c.i.f. values; for exports, f.o.b. value only;
  • Currency as shown on the invoice;
  • Vessel name & Identification. Ship name and Lloyds number, or Airline name and flight number;
  • Australian Business Number (ABN) of the owner of the goods on an entry, where the owner has an ABN; and
  • Client Activity Centre (CAC) of the owner of the goods on an entry, where the owner has an ABN.

For imports only
  • Nature of entry of imports, according to whether they are entered directly for home consumption (Nature 10), diverted into a bonded warehouse (Nature 20) or released from a bonded warehouse into the marketplace (Nature 30);
  • Nature of tariff. Certain clearances of goods are eligible for a reduction in the amount of duty payable because of special circumstances surrounding their importation, e.g. by-law clearances. The nature of tariff code indicates where such variations have been applied;
  • Rate of duty. Either an ad valorem or fixed rate or a combination of both, as outlined in the Australian Customs Tariff;
  • Import duty paid. The total amount of duty paid (in Australian dollars) in respect of imported goods. It reflects the rate of duty appropriate to those goods, plus any dumping duty applicable;
  • GST. The amount of GST liability for the goods on the entry line;
  • GST deferred. The amount of GST liability that was deferred;
  • GST exempted. The amount of GST liability forgone, as a result of the goods being GST exempt; and
  • GST exemption code identifies the section in the legislation, under which a GST exemption is claimed.

5.12 Customs undertakes a range of automated checks on the data it receives, to ensure that the codes used (for commodity, country, port etc.) are valid, and fall within acceptable parameters. At the same time, import transactions reported in currencies other than Australian dollars are converted by Customs to Australian dollars, based on the exchange rates applying the day the goods were exported from the overseas country. Customs further audits the data through its community protection profile system, to detect records that may be of interest to quarantine and health authorities. Refer to paragraphs 2.34 and 2.35 for export currency conversion practices.

5.13 Customs data are provided daily to the ABS on magnetic cartridge for imports, and by direct line transfer for both exports and manifest files. In 1999-00, there were, on average, 441,700 export entry messages and 783,300 import entry messages passed to the ABS each month. This corresponds to 5.3 million export messages and 9.4 million import messages over the year. Table 5.1 shows the breakdown of these messages according to ABS treatment, and identifies the number of merchandise trade transactions that contributed to ABS statistical output for the period.

EXPORTSmillion records

Total number of Customs records received5.3
made up of:
  • ECN1 advices
  • manifest information


ECN advices:2.3
- less replacements, confirmations and deletions0.6
- less low value records0.2
- less non-merchandise records0.1
Total number of merchandise export transactions1.5

1 Export Clearance Number

IMPORTSmillion records

Total number of Customs records received9.4
(includes imports, import clearances and amendments)
- less post shipment amendments (replacements and deletions)0.4
- less low value records3.1
- less non-merchandise records0.1
- less clearances (Nature 30)0.4
Total number of merchandise import transactions5.6


5.14 There would be high costs incurred by industry and government if full documentation was required for every single international merchandise trade transaction. It would also be costly for Customs and the ABS to process and store a record of every transaction, many of which are insignificant for statistical purposes. Consequently minimum value thresholds, below which export or import entries are not required, have been imposed.

5.15 Applying minimum value thresholds has reduced traders' compliance costs and resulted in savings in Customs and ABS processing and storage costs. However, some entries with values below the current thresholds continue to be submitted to Customs. Box 5.2 lists the current thresholds for export and import entries.
  • Parcel post exports: excludes all transactions consigned through Australia Post with values less than $2,000;and
  • Other exports: excludes all transaction lines (within an export consignment) where the value of the goods is less than $500.
    From July 1986, exporters have not been required to submit entries for exports below $500. Many exporters do, however, continue to submit the entries, but they are not processed by the ABS. The threshold change was initiated by the ABS.
    Prior to July 1986, the threshold was $250. This was introduced by Customs in July 1977. Although the limit was $250, a significant number of export entries of lesser value were still received and processed by the ABS. In 1982 the ABS ceased processing entries valued below $250.

  • Parcel post imports: excludes all transactions consigned through Australia Post with values less than $1,000; and
  • Other imports: excludes all consignments screened free or entered on Informal Clearance Documents (ICDs) for values less than $250. Additionally, from July 1998, individual import transaction lines (within a formally entered import consignment), where the value of the goods is less than $250, are not processed by the ABS and are excluded from import statistics.
    Import entries lodged on ICDs, for values not exceeding $250, are not passed to the ABS. However, importers continue to submit many entries valued at under $250, often in conjunction with an import item valued at $250 or more. These are passed to the ABS, but they are not processed or included in output.
    The ICD system was introduced by Customs in 1970, for imports valued at under $100 that met certain other criteria. ICDs request less statistical detail than normal entries. The ICD threshold was raised from $100 to $250 in February 1975.

Impact on ABS output

5.16 Analysis of entry data shows that there is a great number of small value records. Even when added together, they are statistically insignificant in national and state aggregates (and normally in commodity aggregates also). It takes many small value shipments to produce the same impact as one large value record. The thresholds currently applied do not unduly affect the broad level results required for balance of payments and national accounts purposes.

5.17 As an illustration, during July 1994, just over 11% of export input records were valued below $500, representing 0.04% of the total value of exports. In the same period, 34.4% of import input records were valued below $250, representing 0.25% of the total value of imports. A similar analysis of export and import transactions with respect to July 2000 found little change in the results: just over 8% of export input records were valued below $500, representing 0.02% of the total value of exports. For imports, nearly 34% of entries were below $250 in July 2000, representing 0.19% of the total value of imports.

Overseas thresholds

5.18 Most of Australia's major trading partners also apply minimum value thresholds to their trade data. For comparative purposes, the following table 5.3 shows the thresholds used by a selection of other countries (and their $A equivalent), as at June 1998.


USA$US 2,500 (approx. $A 3,800)$US 1,250 (approx. $A 1,900)
Canada$C 2,000 (approx. $A 2,100)All trade included
NZ$NZ 1,000 (approx. $A 850)$NZ 1,000 (approx. $A 850)
Japan200,000 (approx. $A 2,300)200,000 (approx. $A 2,300)
KoreaAll trade includedAll trade included

(converted to $A using exchange rates applicable at June 1998.)

Previous PageNext Page