Excise guidelines for the alcohol industry
This document has changed over time. View its history.
This chapter deals with:
- offences under the Excise Act
- infringement notices, and
- application of the Criminal Code.
|This chapter is a general discussion on offences. It is not meant as legal advice and you are encouraged to seek independent legal advice in relation to your own individual circumstances.|
There are a number of acts or omissions under the Excise Act that are offences.
A conviction for an offence may result in a penalty as provided for within the Excise Act. The penalty provided may be in the form of penalty units , a term of imprisonment or an amount of money calculated by a set formula.
Certain acts or omissions are offences under the Excise Act for which penalties are prescribed.
For penalties to apply to an offence (except where an infringement notice has been issued), you must first be convicted of the offence in a court of law following prosecution.
Certain offences under the excise legislation are strict liability offences as defined in section 6.1 of the Criminal Code (Schedule to the Criminal Code Act 1995 ). Essentially, strict liability means that the offence consists of the physical act or omission only. It is not necessary for the court to find that you knowingly committed, or were reckless or negligent in relation to the act or omission.
Some sections of the Excise Act prescribe the following two levels of offence for similar conduct:
- a higher penalty applies to an act or omission intentionally or recklessly committed (i.e. where there is a 'fault' element); and
- a lower penalty applies to the same act or omission on a strict liability basis (i.e. where no 'fault' element needs to be proven).
Section 26 of the Excise Act prescribes that licensed manufacturers are to manufacture in accordance with the Act and their licence.
- A licensed manufacturer must not intentionally manufacture excisable goods knowing, or being reckless as to whether, the manufacture contravenes this Act or the manufacturer licence.
- Penalty: 2 years imprisonment or 500 penalty units.
- A licensed manufacturer must not manufacture excisable goods in contravention of this Act or the manufacturer licence.
- Penalty: 100 penalty units.
- Strict liability applies to subsection (2).
The Excise Act contains many provisions that include a penalty at the foot of the section or subsection. This means that if you are convicted of an offence against the particular provision you can receive a penalty not exceeding the penalty mentioned.  The penalty listed is the maximum penalty, but the courts can impose a lesser penalty.
A person manufactures excisable alcohol products without a manufacturer licence. This is a contravention of subsection 25(2) of the Excise Act which says that a person shall not manufacture excisable goods without a manufacturer licence. The penalty at the foot of subsection 25(2) of the Excise Act is 100 penalty units. We bring a court action against the person and the court convicts the person. The penalty cannot exceed 100 penalty units, but it can be less.
As indicated above certain offences provide for alternative penalties, for example subsection 25(1) of the Excise Act provides for a penalty of 2 years imprisonment or the greater of 500 penalty units and five times the amount of duty that would have been payable if the goods had been entered for home consumption. For some offences, if a person is convicted of that offence, the court may impose both penalties. 
|Where an offence leads to goods being forfeited,  conviction by the courts results in the forfeited goods being condemned.  This means they are no longer your property and we can dispose of the goods as we see fit.|
We may issue an infringement notice  as an alternative to prosecution for unlawfully possessing, or unlawfully selling excisable goods.  An infringement notice imposes a penalty of 20 penalty units.
To issue an infringement notice, we must have a reasonable belief that you have committed the offence. Notices must be issued within 12 months of the commission of the offence. 
In the event of non-payment, prosecution action would be brought against you.
You cannot be prosecuted for the same offence where an infringement notice has been issued unless the infringement notice is withdrawn.
We can withdraw an infringement notice and if we do so after you have paid the penalty we must refund that to you.
Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code applies to offences against the Excise Act. However, Parts 2.5 and 2.6, which are in Chapter 2, do not apply.  In some courts, excise prosecutions are able to be treated as criminal matters while in other courts they are treated as civil matters. This has an effect on issues such as the burden and standard of proof required.
Refer to section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 for the current value of a penalty unit.
In this chapter we have referred to the following legislation:
Section 5 - Penalty at foot of sections
Section 6B - Application of the Criminal Code
Section 25 - Only licensed manufacturers to manufacture excisable goods
Section 26 - Licensed manufacturers to manufacture in accordance with Act and licence
Section 116 - Forfeiture
Section 117 - Unlawful possession of excisable goods
Section 117B - Unlawfully selling excisable goods
Section 127A - Alternative penalties
Section 129A - Purpose and effect of this Part (Part XA - penalty instead of prosecution)
Section 129B - When an infringement notice may be issued
Section 129C - Matters to be included in an infringement notice
Section 129D - Due date for penalty
Section 129E - Effect of payment of penalty
Section 129F - Withdrawal of infringement notice
Section 151 - Conviction to operate as a condemnation
Section 4AA - Penalty units
Section 4D - Penalties
Section 6.1 - Strict liability
Chapter 2 - General principles of criminal responsibility
|1 July 2013||Original document|
|1 July 2015||Updated document|
|7 September 2017||Updated document|
|21 February 2018||Updated document|
|5 August 2019||Updated document|
|4 June 2021||Updated document|
|9 July 2021||Updated document|
|23 December 2021||Updated document|
|You are here||25 February 2022||Current document|