US imports: Customs duty overpaid in the transition to free trade agreements

The Australian Customs Service and certain importers of goods from the US have disagreed as to the transitional effect of the Australia - US Free Trade Agreement (\"AUSFTA\") where goods were imported (ie physically brought to Australia) and bonded before 1 January 2005 (the date of commencement of AUSFTA) and entered for home consumption only after that date. Importers have claimed that lower AUSFTA duty rates should apply.

Bartier Perry partner, Oliver Shtein, represented John Deere Limited in a test case on this issue in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal upheld our client's submissions that it should be entitled to the lower AUSFTA rate of duty in respect of goods entered for home consumption on or after 1 January 2005.

The Australian Customs Service has, however, appealed the decision to the Federal Court.

Importers who bonded goods of US origin in 2004, but entered them for home consumption in 2005, should consider applying for refunds of duty that may have been overpaid in respect of relevant importations. Those refund applications should be made without delay.

Similar issues may arise in relation to goods of Thai origin under the Australia-Thailand Free Trade Agreement which also entered into force on 1 January, 2005.