VoxTrade regularly undertake compliance audits on behalf of importing clients, and one of the questions we get repeatedly asked is “what documents and records do we need to keep?”.
The discussion invariably turns to the type of documents now required to import port goods into Australia and the level of due diligence the importer is required to undertake to confirm the documentation provided is correct.
In response to the first question on “what documents and records do we need to keep” the simple answer is, all of them.
As an importer you are required by Section 240 (of the Customs Act 1901) to keep all documents and records in relation to a shipment.
Based on this requirement the number of documents required to be kept in 2018 is substantially more than what was required, for instance, 10 years ago.
The importer may have certificates of origin, asbestos declarations, Illegal logging declarations, import permits, new/unused/not field tested declarations, MO41 or IMO documents for dangerous goods, safety data sheets, container weight declarations, ingredients list PLUS the “normal” documents such as commercial invoices, packing lists, packing declarations, bills of lading/airwaybills, treatment certificates and extraneous documents which may be specific to your goods.
Some or all of these documents would have been supplied to your customs broker to facilitate the clearance and delivery of your shipment and you need to have a copy of all these documents in the event of a review by the government authorities.
However, as an extension to these documents you may also be required to present evidence of payment for the shipment, documentary evidence via notes of conversations had in relation to the shipment, and to potentially provide evidence that the documents relied upon are true and correct.
There have been instances where documents supplied are further scrutinised as to their correctness or authenticity and you, as the importer, must show what level of due diligence has been conducted to confirm the documents are correct. Just accepting documents issued by your supplier may not be enough to convince the authorities and where it appears there may be issues, it is prudent that you ask the questions before they are asked of you.
The last point is to recommend that you keep all documents and records in a filing system that is both easy to use and functional so the documents and records can be retrieved and collated in an orderly approach. Remember if you receive a “notice to produce documents” you have 14 days to present the documents to the requesting officer or you are in breach of the Customs Act.
Should you need any assistance in the approach to your document and record retention or would like to discuss a compliance review please do not hesitate to contact us.