Importing explained

Importing involves bringing goods into Australia from overseas. Imported items are goods that come into Australia from an overseas location with the intention for those goods to enter the commerce of Australia (or a licensed customs warehouse).

You can import many items free of taxes and charges and without a formal import declaration, including:

  • low value goods
  • software downloaded from overseas websites
  • most personal effects.

In general, pre-arrival reporting and importation requirements are more complex for goods if they:

  • are over AUD1000 in value
  • are a prohibited or restricted item
  • represent a bio-security risk, or
  • are goods which require payment of duty and taxes.

Goods must clear customs

The Australian Border Force (ABF) is responsible for clearing imported goods through customs when they first arrive. Unless you have an exception, you must declare all goods arriving in to the ABF. For some types of goods, you will need a permit or licence to import them into Australia.

Your goods may also need to meet other requirements for clearance, such as biosecurity, food safety and drug control requirements.

Before you import, check:

  • whether you need to apply for a permit to import your goods
  • if there are any biosecurity conditions your goods need to meet (to prevent pests and diseases from entering Australia)
  • the potential cost of duties, taxes and freight and handling charges. All imports are subject to 10% Goods and Services Tax. Fuel, tobacco and alcohol are subject to excise equivalent duty. This is equivalent to the excise tax rates applied by the Australian Taxation Office
  • for any duty or GST concessions that apply, such as a Tariff Concession Order or preferential tariff treatment under a Free Trade Agreement.

You can find this information on the ABF and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry websites.

It’s a good idea to get a licensed customs broker to guide you through the requirements and help you to import your goods.

What you can import

The Australian Government controls what you can and can’t import into Australia.

There are certain goods which you are prohibited from importing into Australia. However, you may be able to import some prohibited goods into Australia if you obtain written permission from the Australian Government and can meet certain conditions. Check the ABF website for the list of prohibited goods.

You also can’t import some goods because they are a biosecurity risk for Australia, for example certain plant, animal or biological products. Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) to see if you can import your goods.

You should also check whether the goods you want to import are banned in Australia for product safety reasons. For example, any products containing asbestos.

Importing chemicals

If you import industrial chemicals or products containing industrial chemicals (for example, 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.

Costs to import items

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

  • transport costs, insurance, storage charges, and other handling charges that are levied by the logistics provider
  • customs brokerage fees
  • Import Processing Charges
  • clearance and permit fees
  • customs duties
  • biosecurity management fees
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • other fees and taxes.

You may need to pay these costs before you import or when the goods are at the Australian border. A licensed customs broker can help you to understand the possible costs. In some cases, you may be eligible to get refund of customs duty or duty concessions for your imported goods.


You must pay all applicable 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.

Biosecurity Requirements

Certain food, plant material and animal items from overseas could introduce serious pests and diseases into Australia. Ensure you understand biosecurity requirements and your responsibilities for importing goods into Australia.

Labelling imported items

Be aware of labelling requirements for imported goods, such as trade descriptions, country of origin and food information.

Trade descriptions

You must label certain imported goods with a 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

Some food products must show information about the country of origin. If you use country of origin labelling, you must not make false or misleading claims about the place of origin of the goods. Find out more about country of origin labelling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website.

Food labelling

You must make sure that the labelling on imported food products meets the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

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