The A-Z of Importing into Australia. Duty/GST/Customs

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Written by a LICENSED CUSTOMS BROKER this guide explains (in simple terms) all the Customs & Quarantine requirements for importing into Australia.  As most eBay Sellers ship their goods via EMS / Parcel Post, this guide is focused accordingly.


Please Note: eBay guides does not allow external hyperlinks however as they are essential references for this guide, we have included them as specific Google Search references, hence they should appear as first position listings on Google when copy/paste searched.


GUIDE CONTENTS
Section I   - Will my goods get stopped by Customs? What do I do?
Section II  - Import Duty / Import GST / Import Tax and Customs Charges
Section III - Do I need a Customs Broker? What do they cost?
Section IV - How do I clear the goods through Customs myself?
Section V  - Frequently Asked Customs / Importing Questions.


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Section I  -  Will my goods get Stopped by Customs?  What do I do?
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Customs will stop your goods if they meet ANY of the below criteria.

  1. Have a value over AUD $1,000.
  2. Contain Alcohol or Tobacco of ANY quantity or value.
  3. Contain goods of “Customs Interest” being ANY goods listed on (Google search: SACThesaurus_050725.pdf)
  4. Contain Prohibited Imports listed on (Google search: page4369.asp)

If your goods do not meet any of the above criteria then they are not of Customs or Quarantine interest and will be released upon arrival and subsequently delivered to your door without cost.


What to do if your goods are stopped by Customs
In most cases goods purchased on eBay are shipped via EMS (Express Mail Service).  Once your goods arrive in Australia you will receive in the mail an “Australia Post Arrival Notice”.

Once you receive this notice you have two options, you can have a Customs Broker clear the goods for you (See Section III) or you can clear the goods yourself (see Section IV).


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Section II  -  Import Duty / Import GST / Import Tax and Customs Charges
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1) Which goods are subject to Customs Import Duty/GST?

You will be charged Import Duty/GST if your goods meet EITHER of the following:

a) Have a value over AUD $1,000; OR
b) Contain Alcohol or Tobacco of any quantity or value.

If your goods are valued UNDER AUD$1,000 and DO NOT contain Alcohol or Tobacco then you will not be required to pay any Customs Import Duty/GST or associated Customs charges.


2) How is Customs Import Duty / Import GST calculated?

Duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for goods (aka the Customs Value - CV).  Depending on the product, the applicable duty rate can be anywhere from 0% to 10%, however the majority of goods attract a 5% duty rate.
GST is calculated at 10% of the Value of the Taxable Import (VoTI). The VoTI is calculated by the addition of the Customs Value (CV) PLUS the Duty PLUS the value of the International Transport and Insurance (T&I).

An example of how the duty and GST is calculated on goods valued at AUD$1,500 which attract a 5% duty rate would be:

If the Customs value (CV) of imported Goods = $1,500.00
Then the Customs Duty @ 5% of the $1,500 (CV) = $75.00 (Payable)
Assuming the international transport and insurance (T&I) = $125.00
Then the VoTI = (CV) + Duty + (T&I) = $1,700.00
GST = 10% of the VoTI = 10% x $1,700 = $170.00 (Payable)
Therefore the Total Duty plus GST payable = $245.00

Please Note: Customs utilises different calculation methods for Alcohol and Tobacco imports. (Google search: /faqs.html?more=21#faq109) for full details.


3) How is a Duty Rate Percentage assigned to my goods?
All imported goods are assigned a tariff classification obtained from the Australian Customs Tariff (Google search: tariff/tariff 2012.asp) which determines the rate of duty you will pay for that product.


4) Are there any other Customs Charges?
Yes. You will also be charged a Customs Entry Fee of $48.50 if you choose to manually clear the goods yourself, OR $40.20 if you choose to have a Customs Broker electronically clear them for you.

 

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Section III  -  Do I need a Customs Broker?  What do they cost?
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You are legally permitted to manually clear the goods yourself (see Section IV below) however there are a few points you should be aware of before choosing to do so.


Using a Customs Broker – Pros

  • Simplicity.  They do everything for you, right up until the goods are delivered to your door.  All you need to do is provide them with two documents:
    • A copy of the eBay email you received upon purchase; and
    • The “Australia Post Arrival Notice” you will receive in the mail when your goods arrive in Australia.  
 
  • Speed.  They can electronically clear your goods immediately instead of waiting the usual 7-10 business days for Customs to process your manually lodged documents.
 
  • Savings. They will evaluate your imported goods in accordance with the Customs Tariff (comprising over 13,000 Tariff Classifications and 4,000 Concessions, By-laws, Precedents) to ascertain the lowest possible legal Duty and GST rates applicable to your goods.
 
  • Risk Free.  Under Section 243T of the Customs Act, providing false of misleading information to Customs (even unintentionally, like an incorrect tariff classification) renders you liable for a penalty of up to $2,550.  But when you use a Customs Broker, you pass that entire risk over to them. 
 
  • Online Lodgement. Some Customs Brokers (like us) even allow you to attach the above mentioned two documents online so you don’t even have to make a phone call. It doesn’t get any easier than that!


Using a Customs Broker – Cons

  • It will cost you $55 (that’s all we charge at eCustoms Broker).  Alternatively you can also look in the yellow pages under Customs Brokers – but be prepared, some brokers will try to charge you up to $250 for the same service.


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Section IV – How do I clear the goods through Customs myself?
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It’s a bit of a long process but if you follow these instructions you can do it yourself and save the $55 Customs Broker charge.


Step 1 – Familiarise yourself with the 54 page Customs Import Declaration Guide (Google search: DocImpDecGuide.pdf)

Step 2 – Classify every product in your consignment in accordance with the Customs Tariff(Google search: tariff/tariff 2012.asp)
Note: If you can’t work out the applicable Tariff Classification for your goods then you can request Customs to advise you of this reference by lodging a Tariff Advice which is usually processed within 7-10 days. (Google search: ta-guideline.pdf)

Step 4 –  Complete the postal import declaration (N10) – (Google search: B374-Importdeclaration-goodN10Post_Submit.pdf)
IMPORTANT:  All information provided on your declaration (including tariff classifications) must be in accordance with the relevant import legislation contained within the Customs Act.   Failure to do so may render you liable for penalty of up to $2,550 under section 243T for providing false or misleading information to Customs. (Google search: CustomsAct1901.pdf). 

Step 5 – Fax or email your completed declaration to customs and wait 5 - 8 business days for them to process it, provided all information is complete and error free - if not, your documentation will be returned to you for amendment and resubmission.
 

Step 6 – If you completed everything correctly the first time, then Customs will generate an entry for you, calculate the Duty/GST and Customs Charges payable and submit your credit card details to their accounts department for billing.  It usually takes a further 2-3 days for the accounts department to process your credit card and release your goods for delivery by Australia Post.


Total Manual Entry Processing Time: Approx 7-10 Business Days.


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Section V – Frequently Asked Customs / Importing Questions
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  • Why do I need to pay GST?
  • Is Duty and GST payable on used goods?
  • My goods were a gift, why should I pay anything?
  • My goods are only for private use. Do I still need to pay Duty/GST?
  • How is the Customs Value (CV) calculated?
  • Who can I call to discuss the calculation of Duty/GST?

The answers to all of the above questions (and more) can be found at the FAQ's page on our site eCustomsBroker (dot) com (dot) au - If we were to list them all here, this guide would be 10 pages long.
 

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