Imports of Undenatured Ethyl Alcohol for Hand Sanitiser

Imported undenatured ethyl alcohol that is imported with an alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 80% or greater, and that is for use in manufacturing hand sanitiser in Australia, is subject to customs duty when imported of 5% plus $86.90 per litre of alcohol.

While an Free Trade Agreement may remove the 5% duty rate, it does not remove the $86.90/ per litre of alcohol rate. There is no applicable TCO for the goods as imported and little chance of obtaining one as the good is manufactured in Australia. As you are aware, TCOs cannot specify end-use, but bylaws are able to do so. FTA (Freight & Trade Alliance) have approached ABF to request consideration that a new bylaw be made providing that such goods when imported for use in manufacturing hand sanitiser during the Covid-19 pandemic (or such other emergencies as may be decreed) but have not at this time been successful.

The suggestion that FTA has been providing to the many members that have reached out to us for assistance and advice is for the importer to consider warehousing the goods in a licensed facility administered by the ATO on behalf of the ABF.  If the warehouse also has an excise manufacturer licence to produce or distil spirits, the warehouse can, without additional approvals, produce hand sanitiser and then report it by using the duty free-rate tariff item on their Excise return. The imported spirit will then be treated as locally manufactured, and subject to the concessional excise rate administered by the ATO.

The finished good, that is, the hand sanitiser, does not attract excise, as its alcohol content has typically been treated (denatured) to make it unfit for human consumption.

Please note that this production may be subject to permits granted by the ATO for an operator to receive and use duty free rate products.

  • If the spirit is imported and then intended for use in making hand sanitiser, and this will be undertaken by licensed third parties (for example, imported into a licensed warehouse and subsequently manufactured into hand sanitiser/cleaner at that dual licensed premise), then the importer does not need licences or permissions from the ATO.
  •  If the importer intends to undertake this activity at their own facility, and they are not already a licensed operator, they must apply to the ATO for these licences. Applications are available on the ATO website, but note that fees apply both for warehouse licences and applications:
    Warehouse licence:
    Excise licence: 

Other licensed entities (for example, breweries) can also apply for permission to manufacture or obtain spirit for the purposes of producing hand sanitiser. ATO has advised that they will fast-track these applications and aim to process them within 1–2 days. Once approved, the goods are reported using the free-rate tariff item on the Excise return.

Other non-licensed entities, such as hospitals, pharmacists, health care practitioners, education institutions, and government institutions can all receive an unrestricted amount of concessional spirits to meet their manufacturing, scientific or medical needs. This does not require a permit.

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