How to import into Australia?

Unlike many countries, Australian Customs authorities do not require a person or a business to possess an import license in order to be able to import products into the country. However, there are certain types of products that cannot be imported without prior approval from Australian Customs officials. In addition to that, many items need to be labeled correctly. For example, the product name and information relating to the country where the products originated from or were produced in must be provided.

Regardless of whether the product requires a label or not – the importer will need to know the HS Classification , product name, quantity, value and country of origin of all products in a shipment.

It is the responsibility of the Australian importer to stay informed regarding current guidelines and regulations of Customs. These are available on the Customs department’s website. Other government agencies may from time to time also publish matters relating to import procedures and regulations.

If you do come across a leaflet or brochure regarding import procedures and regulations. you have make sure that the brochure is up to date. If you are unable to verify that, use the Customs website instead.

Valuation by Australian Customs

There are various methods employed by Australian Customs authorities to determine the value of imported goods for tax purposes. Transaction value is the most commonly used method. Most of the time, it is either employed in its true form or with small adjustments. One assumption made by Customs is when using the transaction value method, is that the seller and the buyer are not related in any way.

All goods that are imported in Australia must be declared with a value, even if the trader did not actually pay for them. So this means a value must be assigned to gifts and samples. Customs can use several means to determine a value for such shipments such as by taking reference to price of identical goods or similar goods. Customs may also use the deductive method or computative method.

Customs valuation methods used by Australian Customs is aligned to international standards published by the World Trade Organization

Transfer Pricing

The government finalized matters related to transfer pricing by consulting different clients as well as other agencies that usually have information relevant to Customs matters. The document can be found here.

Rules of Origin

What are rules of origin? To state it simply, these are rules that can be used to find out – for the purposes of international trade, the country of origin of the concerned goods. Since Custom duties can sometimes vary according to the location of the exporting country, the country of origin is vital to determine which tax rate or import duty rate applies to the goods.

Concessions for Traders

If the product you are trying to import is not manufactured in Australia, you may be able to apply for concessions on your imported goods as long as the goods meet all the eligibility criteria for such concessions. In order to enjoy preferential duty treatment on your imported products, you will need to get a TCO, Tariff Concession Order.

Commerce Trade Descriptions

Not all imported goods need to be labeled. However, the ones that do need to be labeled require more attention from the importer. The description of the product needs to be there before the product is allowed to be imported.

In case your product requires labeling, and you either forgot to label it or labeled it wrongly, your product is likely to get seized by Customs officials.

You need to know the following information when labeling products:

  • Which products(or product categories) require labeling
  • Where should the label be applied
  • What kind of label is needed

The above information is easily found in The Commerce Act 1905 and the Commerce Regulations 2016.

What is Trade Description?

Importers need to provide a trade description for their goods but what exactly is the nature of this description? Usually, it means any indication or statement that tells the authorities how the goods were made, by whom they were made or selected or packed, etc.

It must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be legible and written in English
  • Include the country of origin (name of the country in who’s jurisdiction the goods were produced)
  • Include a true description of the items. It must be said here that there is no legal definition for the term true description so it generally refers to an accurate explanation or description of the items
  • The description must take the form of a brand or label that is attached to the goods in a location that can be seen easily(and there is no intention to hide the label or blur it to avoid similarities with other brands).

The labelling requirements for Australian imports can be read in detail on the following webpage:

Intellectual Property Rights

Protection of IP rights is taken quite seriously in the land down under and Customs officials have the authority to confiscate any items that may be counterfeit, have fake insignia or branding or in any other way infringe on the intellectual property rights or trademarks of other companies.

As an owner of intellectual property, you can protect your rights by providing a Notice of Objection to Customs officials. Using this notice, Customs officials can take appropriate measures if they detect any items that infringe on your intellectual property rights.

What is Notice of Objection?

As mentioned above, you can protect yourself from counterfeit or fake products boasting your company’s insignia by providing Customs with a Notice of Objection. This legal document gives officials the authority to seize any products that infringe on your IP rights.

This notice is valid for 4 years only so you will have to provide a new one at the end of 4 years. If you want to withdraw protection, you can do that whenever you want.

Only goods can be protected with a Notice of Objection and not services.

Help for Australian traders

Traders may reach out to service providers to get their goods cleared from Customs. It must be said, however, that service provider representatives are not allowed to fill your forms on your behalf. As an importer, you need to have the full knowledge of what you are importing and need to complete the self-assessment forms yourself. Failure to do so may lead to penalties or other similar punishments. It always helps to use a local broker’s services who has experience dealing with these issues, so that they may be able to guide you. There are also certified brokers licensed by the authorities who may be able to help you with your goods.

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