Date Published: 16 July 2020

Importing Goods into Australia

Okay, you have made the decision to start you small business or perhaps you are looking at expanding your existing business into new markets, or offering new products. You have decided to go down the path of importing your goods.

You have identified a supplier, and you are now looking at how to import your goods. You may be overwhelmed by the process. Firstly, there is no requirement for importers (companies or individuals) to hold an import licence to import goods into Australia.

However, there are a number of Australian importing laws you will need to follow to get you goods through Australian Customs and into your store. You can attempt to do this yourself or engage a company like World Options or a licensed customs broker to do it for you. Maybe your supplier will agree to do it. Either way, you will need to educate yourself on the various terms and requirements involved when importing into Australia.  

The purpose of this brief is not to provide you with all the information on the customs laws in Australia, rather its designed to guide you to where the information can be found. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is merely a starting point on your self-education.

A good place to start is to read the Documentary Import Declaration Comprehensive Guide. (1324KB PDF). That Guide will assist importers wishing to clear goods imported by sea, air or international mail (post) from Customs and Border Protection by submitting an import declaration by document. Engaging World Options, the declarations are completed for you automatically.

The Guide is handy, as it provides explanations of the various terms, and codes used, along with reference sites and many more useful pieces of information. An extremely useful Import Declaration Process Chart is included. The chart helps you understand the process Customs and Border Protection and DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Biosecurity use when conducting checks on imported goods to ensure the protection of Australian borders.

There are several steps needed to be finalised before you can take delivery of your goods. Customs and Border Protection require you to provide enough information to assess your goods. The commercial documentation you have that relates to your goods (e.g. ocean bill of lading, master air waybill and packing lists) should be referred to when completing your declaration. You will need to present those documents to Customs and Border Protection if requested to do so.

Once the imported goods reach their destination port, they enter Customs control.

Goods will be released (through an ATD - Authority to Deal) when Customs and Border Protection are satisfied the goods were properly reported and declared; permits are produced; duty, GST/and or LCT (Luxury Car Tax) and other liabilities are paid; and DAFF Biosecurity concerns are addressed.

The ATD is your advise that the goods are available to you (known as ‘delivery into home consumption’).

Once you have read the Guide, you might start your self-education process at the Australian Border Force Website to gain a deeper insight into your obligations.

There you will find a lengthy overview of How To Import, the requirements and process involved. Below itemised 10 key learning areas you should attempt to grasp.

1. Understand your obligations relating to government import regulations

The main agency in Australia responsible for clearing your goods through customs is Australian Border Force. The Department of Agriculture provides important information about your responsibilities as an importer and the import conditions that may apply to your goods. 

2. Ascertain if you need a specific permit

As we stated earlier, there is no requirement for individuals or businesses to have a licence to import goods into Australia. Having said this you may need a permit to clear certain goods through customs.

There are several categories of goods that are restricted or prohibited. You will find the complete list here.

As a general rule restrictions are placed on importing dangerous chemicals, pharmaceuticals, narcotics, certain foods, weapons, tobacco, and some biological materials.

3. Find out what goods will need to be quarantined

Importing plant, animal (including live plants and animals) human products (including human remains), minerals will nearly always be quarantined and treated for pests or other biological factors. Full details can be found on the Department of Agriculture's website.

4. Tariffs and Taxes and how much will it cost

Most imported items will attract some form of Tarff or tax. These change from time to time and you will need to know about these. So spend some time acquainting yourself with what taxes and tariffs are applied and when. 

5. Understand the charges for import duty, and goods and services sales tax

The Customs value is the value to be used when goods are imported into Australia. Understanding how to value goods for customs duty taxes is a good place to start.

6. What concessions are available to me

Australian Border Force administer a number of these schemes which are include allowing the importation of goods at free or concessional rates and or the deferment of duty payment. See the departments Concession Schemes here

7. Understand Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Our Government has negotiated a number of FTA's with other governments and countries around the world. They are designed to ease international trade barriers and reduce import costs. You will find useful information on FTA Agreements here

8. What other costs should I be considering

There are several other costs you’ll need to be prepared for:

  • The cost of buying the goods in the first place.
  • Shipping and logistics costs for overseas and domestic shipping.
  • Freight handling charges levied by airports or seaports.
  • Insurance and other costs.

9. Labelling Goods

Labels are a key feature of most products. They help to market your product, allow customers to tell it apart from the competition, and give important messages including ingredients, instructions and uses.

Read the current guides on the Australian Border Force website

10. How to pay for your goods

Avoid paying too much for your currency. It would pay to do some research or visit your local bank to understand your options.

Here's a couple of Key Points to consider

  • Choose an international payment partner you can trust
  • Consider the foreign exchange services that best match your needs
  • Make the most of the convenience of online banking

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