Importing: duty and taxes

Last updated: December 2020 | 3 min read

There are several factors to consider when importing goods from overseas. If you are a manufacturer, although importing might appear a cheaper option, there can be extra costs and risks that need to be taken into account.

Before bringing goods into Australia it is worth checking the Industry Capability Network (ICN) database for a competitive local supplier.

Importers also need to consider:

  • import and quarantine restrictions
  • special health and fumigation requirements
  • quotas
  • transport and insurance costs
  • port charges
  • customs clearance charges, duty and GST
  • fumigation and associated costs.

All goods imported into Australia must be correctly labelled. If a trade description is required it must be prominent and contain:

  • a true description of the goods
  • the country of origin
  • an accurate description of the product in English
  • any weight or quantity marked as net or gross.

Under Australia's intellectual property laws, Customs can seize goods if they are pirated and infringe a trademark or copyright.

If you organise for goods to be brought into Australia, you are regarded by Customs as the importer. This means you are responsible for complying with import regulations and paying taxes, duties and fees if the value is more than $1,000.

The method of purchase and delivery can vary. Goods are now often purchased over the Internet and may arrive by air freight, express courier, and sea cargo or by post. How they arrive will influence the Customs clearance formalities and charges.

Any imported product valued at more than $1,000 requires an import declaration. This can be lodged online or at a Customs office.

When importing goods, also be aware that:

If goods are imported into Australia for up to 12 months on a temporary basis they may be exempt from duty or taxes. Items qualifying as a temporary import may be processed using a:

  • carnet - an international 'passport for goods' under which payment of duties and taxes is guaranteed by an overseas issuing body
  • security - this can be a cash or bank guarantee equal to the amount that would normally be paid in duties or taxes.

Before importing goods you must find out if they fall under the control of Australian quarantine regulations.

All imported plant, animal, mineral and human products must be approved by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Some products are considered a significant risk and are not allowed into Australia. Other products can only be imported if AQIS grants an import permit.

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