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Review of scientific licence pricing arrangements
The ACMA is conducting a review of apparatus licence taxes for scientific licences. The scientific licence type is intended to facilitate research and innovation in the use of the radio frequency spectrum.
Over time, it has become apparent that the structure of the current apparatus licence tax formula, along with changing spectrum demands of modern radiocommunications technology, has made the apparatus licence fees associated with scientific licences less attractive for innovators to seek licences for testing of new technologies. In particular, the scientific trialling of technologies that use very wide bandwidths associated with the licence can result in high licence fees, acting as a disincentive for licence take-up for research and development.
The ACMA considers that taxes of this nature are likely to be significantly larger than the opportunity cost associated with such a short-term licence. Given that the scientific licence is intended to facilitate research and innovation in the use of the radio frequency spectrum, the ACMA considers there is a compelling reason to reconsider the taxes attached to the licence type, to facilitate technology innovations in the use of radiocommunications.
The ACMA proposes to reduce taxes associated with scientific assigned licences in two ways:
- apply a reduction of 90 per cent to the current fee structure, akin to the current low power discount
- apply tax on a licence basis, rather than on a site basis (for example, based on a spectrum access or transmitter location).
The ACMA is also proposing an amendment to the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Scientific Licence) Determination 2015 (LCD). Subsection 7(2) of the LCD requires that a scientific station must not be operated by the licensee if the activity that is to be undertaken can be undertaken using a station under another type of licence.
The ACMA is proposing to remove this requirement from the LCD. In some cases, the activities able to be conducted under a scientific licence are currently able to be conducted under a range of alternative licence types. Removal of this condition will facilitate access to the proposed tax relief.
These proposals are not intended to allow licensees to continue to be authorised by a scientific licence beyond the original purpose of the licence type, such as to provide a commercial service. A scientific licence is issued to authorise a device that operates primarily to perform any of the following activities:
- research into radiocommunications
- investigation of radiocommunications
- instruction in radiocommunications
- demonstration of equipment
- testing of equipment
- trials of new radiocommunications technology
- radio propagation path testing.
Issue for comment
Opportunity to provide feedback
The ACMA welcomes comments from stakeholders on the proposed amendments to the Tax Determination and the LCD.