Is an email an export? | KPMG | AU

Is an email an export?

Is an email an export?

Leonie Ferretter and Melissa McCosker, Trade and Customs Specialists, warn taxpayers of some counter-intuitive potential outcomes of Australia's export controls regime.


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If that email contains controlled technology, software or designs, and is sent to a recipient outside of Australia. the answer is yes. Failure to obtain a permit to ‘export’ can incur penalties of $450,000 per export and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Many organisations are unaware that Australia has an export controls regime which, in line with its international obligations,controls the export of certain goods and technology that have, or may have, a chemical, biological, nuclear or military purpose. Controlled goods, software and technology subject to restrictions are listed on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL).

There is also a misconception that where physical goods are not transported out of Australia, export restrictions do not apply. It is important for organisations to be aware that intangible supplies are covered by the export controls regime. These restrictions include a person in Australia providing DSGL-controlled software or technology to a person outside of Australia via email, fax, telephone, video conferencing, access to electronic files, or presentations. It also includes providing a password or link to a database or server, or allowing offshore access to information stored in the ‘cloud’.

Given the severity of the penalties for breaches of these laws, we recommend organisations:

  • assess whether they have potentially controlled supplies
  • assess whether they fall within an exemption category
  • apply for permissions to export in the event they are dealing with physical and/or intangible supplies
  • put in place standard operating procedures and processes to manage all exports.

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