Australia: Why you need both a tariff advice and a tariff concession order

Last Updated: 18 May 2017
Article by Russell Wiese and Lynne Grant

When you apply for a tariff concession order (TCO) you have to nominate the appropriate tariff classification. Customs may not dispute the nominated classification at the time of application, but this doesn't mean that many years after the TCO is made you can assume that your nominated tariff classification is correct. A recent case shows how disastrous a change in view as to classification can be for the TCO applicant. It also highlights the protection that can be afforded by proactively obtaining a tariff advice.

What happens if the initial tariff classification is wrong?

When a TCO is made it is attached to a particular tariff classification. For a good to receive duty free entry under the TCO, the good must first be classified to the tariff classification to which the TCO is keyed. The good must then also come within the description of goods contained within that TCO. It can happen that a TCO is attached to particular tariff classification, and then at a later point in time it is determined that the TCO should have been classified to another tariff classification. This can occur in a number of ways, for example, if a party seeks a refund from Customs based on the application of TCO and the refund department denies the refund as it believes that the goods are not classified to the same classification as the TCO – despite being the very goods described in the TCO.

In such circumstances, Customs has the power under the Customs Act to revoke the original TCO and issue a new TCO under the alternative, correct tariff classification. While this may seem to fix the problem, usually Customs only re-issues the TCO with a prospective operation. The old TCO remains attached to the incorrect tariff classification.

Why is this a problem? Because goods entered prior to the re-issue of the new TCO must be correctly classified and the old TCO is still attached to the incorrect classification.

The case

In National Oilwell Pty Ltd and Comptroller-General of Customs [2017] the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) had to consider a scenario where both the importer and Customs realised a TCO was originally keyed to the wrong tariff classification. Customs corrected the error by revoking the original TCO and reissuing a new TCO to the correct classification.

The original TCO had an operative date of 17 April 2009. It was revoked on 14 April 2014. The new TCO was given an operative date of 15 April 2014. The importer sought to use the old TCO for goods imported prior to 14 April 2014 (when the old TCO was in force). Customs denied the use of the TCO as the relevant goods were not correctly classified to the heading which contained the old TCO. While there was a new TCO with the correct classification, this was only operative from 15 April 2014.

The importer claimed that the old imports should be classified to the same tariff heading as the old TCO to reflect the "classification practice at the time of entry". The AAT took little time in dismissing this argument. It found that there was no dispute that the correct classification of the goods was the classification belonging to the new TCO. Once this was established there was no way that the goods could fit within the terms of the old TCO, despite the previous approach by Customs.

What is the solution?

Two options can be considered to address this problem. The first is to always obtain a tariff advice when relying on a TCO (and renewing that TA when it expires). This will mean that even if Customs changes its mind as to classification, it will be bound by the old classification when looking back over the past entries. It can insist on a new classification for future imports, but equally the importer can have the TCO classification prospectively updated.

Another alternative is to seek that the old TCO be revoked and reissued against the correct classification, but that the new TCO apply from the date the original TCO was made. The result of this is that there will be no mismatch between the correct classification of the goods and the classification to which the new TCO is attached. However, Customs is inconsistent in its approach to the operative date of reissued TCOs.

There are methods to dispute an approach by Customs under which it only applies the new TCO prospectively. We are happy to assist importers with such problems. However, our advice remains that the best approach is to be proactive and avoid the problem by obtaining a tariff advice with your TCO.

Undoubtedly, for many importers, obtaining a tariff advice will seem unnecessary at the time of applying for the TCO. You will, at that time, very likely be in agreement with Customs as to the tariff classification of the proposed TCO goods. However, the view of the Customs team making a TCO and the Customs team (maybe many years later) reviewing refund applications or conducting an audit can differ greatly. The only way to protect yourself again those differing views is to hold a tariff advice that binds Customs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Russell Wiese
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions