Importing goods and supplies for manufacturing from overseas is an essential part in the day-to-day operations of many Australian businesses. However, Australia has various laws regulating the importing of goods, including customs taxes, prohibited goods, permits and measurement standards. As a result, if you fail to comply with these standards and regulations, you could face fines and not receive your goods. This article sets out what you should consider as an Australian business owner if you are importing goods.

Customs Taxes

Goods imported into Australia are subject to taxes. There are three options for assessing taxes for imported goods:

If the value of the goods are equal to or less than $1,000 or for home consumption.

You can make an Import Declaration and pay any duties, taxes and charges that apply. For that reason, some businesses have licensed customs brokers.

Generally, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will receive these declarations electronically.

Tobacco, alcohol and goods costing over $1,000. You must self-assess and classify the taxes which apply to your goods. The DHA provides information to assist you with this. Overall, you should:

  • provide your ABN to the DHA; and
  • consider registering for GST to claim input tax credits or access the GST deferral scheme.
If you are placing the goods in a warehouse after importation.

If your business uses a customs licensed warehouse to store imported goods, you should provide a Warehouse Declaration to the DHA.

As a result, duty and tax payments become deferred until the goods are removed from the licensed warehouse for home consumption.

The deferred GST scheme allows importers to defer GST payments on taxable goods imported into Australia. Once on this scheme, you may claim a GST credit for the amount of GST that has been deferred.

Valuations for Customs Tax Purposes

As part of customs taxes, your goods will need to be valued. The most common method for calculating valuation involves determining the price actually paid or payable for the imported goods. However, you can only use this valuation where there is no relationship between the buyer and seller which can influence the price. For that reason, the DHA offers valuation advice, including valuation advance rulings (a ruling on the assessed value of imported goods).

Another consideration in your self-assessment should be where your goods are sourced from, since this can affect the rate of tax and any concessions applied. Similarly to valuations, you can obtain a ruling from the DHA which advises whether your goods qualify as originating from a particular country.

Temporary Imports

It is important to remember there are some exceptions to customs taxes, such as carnets, which are goods under temporary importation agreements. Goods in this category may be temporarily imported into Australia for up to 12 months without taxes being paid.

Temporary Importation Type Inclusions Common Examples
Goods under Carnet These are imports which allow you to lodge a security (being a guaranteed representation of the investments value) with an overseas body who supplies carnets, such as:

  • Carnet de Passages en Douane, which covers private touring vehicles; and
  • Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission, which covers goods such as commercial samples, scientific equipment and goods displayed for exhibitions.
Motor vehicles temporarily imported with automobile associations.
Goods under Security This is for goods where the security is lodged with the DHA at the time of being imported into Australia. A boat being temporarily imported while the security is registered with the DHA at the time of importation.

Lastly, concessions are available for certain kinds of goods imported in Australia. Overall, there exist 55 items with concessional rates of duty, including goods such as certificates or prizes, textiles and goods for people with disabilities.  

Clearance by the Department of Home Affairs

Your import declaration is important for determining taxes and also for clearing customs. Restrictions exist for some goods entering into Australia, including restricted and prohibited imports.

Restriction Type How it is Assessed Common Examples
Seizure Under some circumstances, goods can be seized if they infringe another person’s intellectual property rights, such as their trade marks, copyright or protected Olympic insignia. Brands with protected trade marks that are pirated or imported without unauthorised can be seized by the DHA.  
Restricted Import For import goods categorised as ‘restricted imports’, you must have written permission. Items such as:

  • antibiotics;
  • cigarette lighters;
  • cultural heritage goods from Papua New Guinea;
  • firearms and ammunition;
  • laser pointers;
  • pornography and other objectionable material; and
  • signal jammers and signal jamming devices.
Prohibited You cannot import prohibited items. Items such as:

  • cultural heritage goods;
  • dangerous breeds of dogs;
  • new psychoactive substances;
  • goods from sanctioned countries/entities; and
  • suicide devices.
Permit Required Some goods require particular permits before you can import them into Australia.

Importing products containing industrial chemicals for commercial purposes requires registration with the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme.

Some imported goods require quarantine treatment. A quarantine permit must be obtained from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Mandatory Safety Standards These standards apply to all imported goods and are enforced through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Toys and electronic goods must comply with the product safety standards under the Australian Consumer Law.
Measurement Restrictions Businesses that import pre-packaged goods or sell goods by measurement are required to comply with national regulations. Therefore, one kilogram of imported pre-packed fruit needs to be one kilogram and measured correctly under the legislative requirements.

Australian Trusted Trader

If you are going to import goods regularly for your business, it may be worth considering joining the Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) program. This is a partnership with the DHA which facilitates legitimate trade and may save you time and money. The program intends to provide benefits such as:

  • direct access to a dedicated account manager;
  • quicker access to international trade markets; and
  • an easier customs approach at the border.

The accreditation process is free of charge. Your business is eligible to apply if:

  • it has been active in the international supply chain for at least two years;
  • is financially solvent; and
  • has an Australian Business Number.

Key Takeaways

There are a number of issues to consider if you are importing goods into Australia, such as customs taxes and clearance of your goods at the border. Consequently, you should:

  • self-assess your goods for taxes, such as declaring their category, value and where they come from;
  • check if the goods you plan to import are prohibited, restricted or are counterfeit/pirated items;
  • ensure the goods will meet measurement requirements and mandatory product safety standards in Australia; and
  • finally, remember that the government runs the Trusted Trader program which may facilitate your importing activities.

If you have any questions about importing goods into Australia, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Sam Auty
If you would like further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please get in touch using the form on this page.
If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote for a legal matter, please get in touch using the form on this page.