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Importing explained

Importing involves bringing goods or services into Australia from overseas.

There is no minimum amount for a good to be defined as imported. Examples of imported items include:

  • a book ordered from a UK publisher and shipped to your home address in Australia
  • 1000 computer chips made in China and delivered to your business warehouse in Australia
  • macadamia nuts from Hawaii for you to use in cooking
  • 10,000 bottles of Swedish cider for your chain of bottle shops

Regardless of size, weight, quantity or cost, anything that comes into Australia from an overseas location is an imported item.

Goods must clear customs

You must declare all goods you import into Australia. All goods are cleared through customs by the Australian Border Force (ABF).

Although you aren’t required to have a licence to import goods, depending on the goods you’re importing you may need a permit to have your imports cleared from customs control. You also can’t bring some goods into Australia at all. You must make sure the goods you import aren't prohibited goods and meet Australian law.

You need to know:

  • what import permits, biosecurity permits and treatments apply to your specific imported goods
  • if your goods are subject to mandatory safety or information standards

Find out more about importing goods, including import clearances, prohibited goods and import permits.

To get biosecurity clearance, your goods may need to be inspected and possibly treated.

Costs to import items

Before you import, it's important to understand any extra costs that may apply. Depending on the type and value of the goods, you may have to pay:

  • clearance fees
  • customs duty
  • goods and services tax (GST)
  • other taxes

These duties, taxes and charges are paid at the border.

It’s a good idea to get a licensed customs broker. They can help you to understand the possible costs and guide you through the import process.

In some cases, you may be able to get a refund of customs duty or duty concessions for your imported goods.

Find a list of customs brokers to help you import your goods.

Learn how to calculate your import costs.


You must pay all duties before your goods can be released at the border.

In addition to tariff duties, you may have to pay dumping and countervailing duties for some goods. These are special duties that can sometimes cost you more than the value of the goods.

Check the Dumping Commodity Register for anti-dumping and countervailing duty rates.

If you’re a small to medium sized business, you can ask for help relating to dumping and countervailing duties.

What you can import

The Australian Government controls what you can and can’t import into Australia. The ABF administers the import regulations.

The leading Australian import industries include:

  • personal travel and tourism
  • automobiles and petrol
  • telco equipment
  • freight transport

Importing chemicals

If you import industrial chemicals or products containing industrial chemicals (e.g. soap, cosmetics, paint, glue, printing ink and cleaning products) for commercial purposes, you must register your business with the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS). Registration involves an annual registration fee.

See the getting started information for importing chemicals.

Labelling imported goods

If you intend to resell the goods you import, you must abide by the country of origin labelling regulations. 

There are 2 specific requirements for imported goods that you should consider:

  • Trade descriptions
  • Country of origin labelling

Trade descriptions

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 states that some goods can't be imported unless they’re correctly labelled with the required trade description (a true description of the goods in English).

To find out whether the goods you're importing need a trade description and the guidelines around them, see the ABF information on labelling.

Country of origin labelling

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 prohibits you from making false or misleading claims about the place of origin of goods. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) country of origin page tells you how to use country of origin labelling and the regulations governing the 'Australian Made' logo.

Read next

See the getting started information for importing chemicals.