Licence fee exemptions & concessions | ACMA

Licence fee exemptions & concessions

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) has the power to provide licence fee exemptions, concessions and discounts to some licensees in certain circumstances.

Provision for exemptions is made under regulation 5 of the Radiocommunications Taxes Collection Regulations and under the Radiocommunications (Charges) Determination 2017.

Provision for concessions is made under the Radiocommunications (Transmitter Licence Tax) Determination 2015 and the Radiocommunications (Receiver Licence Tax) Determination 2015.

Any person or body operating a transmitter must hold a valid licence under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) or be authorised to operate equipment under a third party authorisation.

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ACMA licence fees

Spectrum is a valuable resource. Fees are intended to ensure a fair return to the Commonwealth for the private use of this valuable public resource. Licence fees are set having regard to spectrum location, geographical location, amount of spectrum occupied and coverage area authorised by the licence.

Detailed information about fees is provided in the Apparatus Licence Fee Schedule booklet.

Licence fee exemptions

Licence fee exemptions provide relief from the payment of the annual licence tax and the ACMA administrative charge to licensees who fulfil the prescribed requirements. Licence fee exemptions apply to:

  1. diplomatic and consular missions

  2. bodies, the principal purpose of which is to provide surf life saving and remote area ambulance services

  3. bodies, the principal purpose of which is to provide emergency services or services for the safe-guarding of human life - including rural fire fighting, search and rescue and coast guard services - where the body is staffed principally by volunteers and is exempt from paying income tax.

In relation to ii and iii, the exemption from payment of licence fees is available to organisations and individuals who are able to prove that they meet the relevant criteria detailed in subregulations 5(7) and 5(8) of the Radiocommunications Taxes Collection Regulations.

Exempt bodies or persons must be:

  1. a body corporate; or

  2. a member or representative of an unincorporated body; or

  3. a person assisting a body to which either of the above apply.

The body must:

be staffed principally by volunteers; and

match one of the following provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997:

  • section 50-5
  • item 2.1 of section 50-10
  • section 50-25; and
  • the income of which which is exempt under the provision mentioned in paragraph (b) that applies to the body; and

established principally for the purposes of providing emergency services or services for the safeguarding of human life, including any of the following services:

Definition of volunteer

The ACMA has defined a volunteer as a person who offers his or her services in any capacity, or who chooses to take part in an exercise, without there being coercion or a legal obligation so to act.

A volunteer enters into an arrangement with another person or organisation with free will and by choice. Volunteers may be paid and payment may take the form of monetary remuneration, reimbursement of costs (for example, uniforms or travel), or remuneration in kind (for example, a petrol voucher).

Applying for licence fee exemptions

If your organisation is seeking a licence fee exemption, it must meet the relevant criteria (see Regulation 5) and your equipment must be used solely or principally for the purposes of the organisation.

If you are an individual seeking exemption in relation to assisting an exempt organisation, your equipment must be operated solely or principally for the purpose of assisting the exempt organisation.

Exemptions apply to individual licences - you are required to apply for licence fee exemptions for every licence application.

The first application for a licence fee exemption must be made on an Application for Licence Fee Exemption or Concession (.docx, R038) form and be accompanied by either a completed Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) form or licence renewal. Completing the form R038 requires you to declare that the particulars shown in the application and accompanying documents are true and correct in every detail.

If your request for exemption covers a number of licences at the same time, then it is not necessary to submit separate requests for each licence - one form can cover the request for exemption for all licences applied for in one application.

Once a licensee has been granted an exemption, he or she is known as an 'exempt person' for the purposes of the licence. The ACMA will assess each licence to confirm that the equipment being licensed is being used for the purposes of the exempt body.

Multiple licence applications for the one event

To prevent licensing duplication and the inefficient use of spectrum, particularly in high demand spectrum areas, the ACMA may decide not to issue a fee exempt licence to an exempt body if a 'safety net' service is already being provided for the event for which a licence is being sought. The onus of proof of the non-existence of adequate services for particular events is on the applicant.

Stockpiling of licences by exempt persons or bodies for non-exempt persons or bodies

The ACMA is aware that some exempt bodies have been approached by non-exempt organisations to 'stockpile' licences (frequencies), particularly in areas of spectrum scarcity, on behalf of the non-exempt organisation.

These licences are subsequently surrendered, coincidentally with the non-exempt organisation making application for the frequency concerned.

In addition to considering whether a transmitter is to be operated solely or principally for the purposes of the exempt body, the ACMA will consider whether the transmitter is likely to physically exist or be operated by the exempt body.

Exempt persons or bodies may not transfer a licence or make a third party authorisation to persons or bodies that are not exempt.

Special conditions

The following special condition is attached to any licence for which an exemption has been granted on the basis of assisting an exempt body:

'A transmitter may be operated under this licence for the sole or principal purpose of assiting a body to which subregulations 5(7) or 5(8) of the Radiocommunications Taxes Collection Regulations apply'

Other relevant special conditions may be attached to a licence, as required.

Licence renewal

While your first application for a licence fee exemption must be made on an Application for Licence Fee Exemption or Concession (.docx, R038) form, the exemption from licence fees continues in subsequent years if you are able to certify that the details provided on the original R038 have not changed. You must send written confirmation that your circumstances have not changed along with your renewal documents to Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments Section, ACMA, Canberra.

Exempt licence transfers

There are a number of limitations on the transfer of apparatus licences specified in the Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015.

Exempt bodies and persons may only transfer a licence to other exempt bodies or persons. To transfer your licence, you must complete an Application for transfer of apparatus licence (R060) form and make sure it is signed by the intended licensee. The intended licensee should also complete and submit an Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) form and an Application for Licence Fee Exemption or Concession (.docx, R038) form, and submit both with the transfer request.

In these circumstances, the current licensee is also exempt from the applicable licence transfer charge.

Where an application for transfer is accepted, the transferred licences will:

  1. continue in force until the date of expiry specified on the original licence; and

  2. continue with the same conditions as those which applied immediately before the transfer, unless the ACMA undertakes to alter the conditions.

Exempt third party authorisations

Licensees may make written authorisation for other persons to operate radiocommunications devices under the apparatus licences. These are known as third party authorisations.

There are a number of limitations on third party authorisations, specified in the Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015.

As an exempt person, you may not authorise other persons (third parties) to operate your radiocommunications equipment covered by the licence unless they are similarly exempt persons.

Refusal to grant an exemption

While refusal to grant an exemption is not a reviewable decision, in circumstances where the ACMA refuses to grant an exemption, the applicant will usually be advised, in writing, together with a brief statement of reasons for the refusal.

Licence fee concessions

Licence fee concessions apply only to:

  1. the Royal Flying Doctor Service

  2. the narrowcasting service licensing option of Broadcasting licences, where the station is proposed to operate, or operates, solely for providing open narrowcasting television services for community and educational non-profit purposes.

Licence fee concession holders pay 28.5% of the annual licence fee.

Application for licence fee concessions

Concessions apply to individual licences - you are required to apply for licence fee concessions for every licence application

Your first application for a licence fee concession must be made on an Application for Licence Fee Exemption or Concession (.docx, R038) form with either a completed Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) form or licence renewal.

If your request for concession covers a number of licences at the same time then it is not necessary to submit separate requests for each licence - one form can cover your concession request for all licences you apply for in one application.

Once you have been granted a concession, you are considered an 'eligible person' for the purposes of the licence. The ACMA will assess each licence to confirm that the equipment being licensed is being used for the purposes of that licence.

Licence renewal

Licence fee concessions will be automatically applied as part of the licence renewal process. Your renewal notice will detail only the applicable percentage of the annual licence tax and the renewal charge relevant to the licence being renewed.

Concession licence transfers

As an eligible person, you may only transfer your licence to another body or person who is eligible for licence fee concessions or exemptions.

To transfer a licence, you must complete an Application for Licence Transfer (R060) form and make sure it is signed by the intended licensee. The intended licensee should also complete and submit an Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) form and Application for Licence Fee Exemption or Concession (.docx, R038) form and submit it with the transfer request.

A transfer fee is charged for licences with concessions.

If your transfer application is accepted, the transferred licences will:

  1. continue in force until the date of expiry specified on the original licence

  2. continue on the same conditions as those which applied immediately before the transfer, unless the ACMA undertakes to alter the conditions.

Concession third party authorisations

The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 indicates that an eligible person must not authorise other persons (third parties) to operate radiocommunications equipment covered by the licence unless those persons are eligible persons, or are exempt persons.

Refusal to grant a concession

While refusal to grant a concession is not a reviewable decision, in circumstances where the ACMA refuses to grant a licence fee concession, you will usually be advised, in writing, together with a brief statement of reasons for the refusal.

Further Information

If you have any further questions about licence fee exemptions or concessions, please contact the ACMA's Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or info@acma.gov.au.

Last updated: 03 May 2017