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Cost recovery by Commonwealth agencies

Public inquiry

This inquiry has concluded. The inquiry report was released by the Commonwealth Government on 14 March 2002.

The inquiry incorporated a National Competition Policy review of fees charged under the Trade Practices Act 1974.

Among other things, the Commission was to report on:

  • the nature and extent of cost recovery arrangements and factors underlying them
  • who benefits from the goods and services to which the arrangements apply
  • impacts on business and the agencies concerned
  • the consistency of the arrangements with regulatory best practice.

The Commission was also required to report on appropriate guidelines for applying cost recovery arrangements.

In the Trade Practices Act component of the inquiry, the Commission was required to have particular regard to fees that restrict competition, whether the benefits to the Community outweigh the costs, and whether the objectives of cost recovery arrangements can only be met by restricting competition.

The inquiry did not cover charges by State, Territory or Local governments, nor general taxation revenue raising.


Commonwealth Government research, administrative and information departments and agencies were asked to complete a questionnaire to provide the Commission with information regarding their cost recovery requirements and practices.

Approaches adopted by other countries

The Productivity Commission has found it useful by providing information that is important to cost recovery and the policy approaches adopted by other countries. Please note that these documents contain the views of the authors and should not be attributed to the Productivity Commission.

New Zealand Treasury

Guidelines for Setting Charges in the Public Sector

US Office of Management and Budget

Guidelines for general cost recovery in the US - Circular No. A-25 Revised, 7th July 1993

Guidelines for inter-governmental cost recovery in US - Circular No. A-97, 29th August 1969


Best Practice Guidelines for User Charges for Government Services - Completed Q (PUMA Policy Brief No. 3), 1998

User Charging for Government Services: Best Practice Guidelines and Case Studies No. 22 - Public Management Occasional Papers, 1998

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Cost Recovery and Charging Policy - 8th April 1997

User Charging in the Federal Government - A Background Document - 2nd May 1997

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Media release and Government's interim response

Draft report

Please note: The draft report is for research purposes only. For final outcomes of this inquiry refer to the inquiry report.

Draft report (PDF - 2133 Kb)

Key documents