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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

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.

Duties

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.

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 National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). Registration involves an annual registration fee. 

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.