Customs clearance in Australia

Everyone who imports or exports out of Australia knows that the regulations regarding customs clearance in Australia are relatively strict. To help you with the complicated process, we’ve gathered the most important information about customs clearance in Australia.

Do you need Customs Brokers in Australia?

A customs broker comes in handy if you import to Australia since the process is not easy. You need to obtain documents (certificates, permits, licenses) and comply with regulations and quarantine rules. A customs broker is an intermediary between the importer and the customs authority. A licensed customs broker and agent will assist you to:

  • Determine the tariff classification
  • Speed up the clearance process
  • Calculate import costs
  • Meet your legal obligations
  • Pay duties and taxes
  • Lodge declaration and other documentation
  • Place your cargo at a facility after clearance.

Import customs clearance in Australia – documents

If you import into Australia, you need at least:

  1. commercial invoice. The CI includes information such as:
    • date of issue
    • invoice number
    • the country of origin
    • the port of entry
    • tariff classification code
    • total invoice value and currency of payment
    • the unit value (given in a specific currency)
    • the unit of measure: goods’ net and gross weight
    • name and address of both the exporter and importer
    • product name and quantity
    • means of transport
    • Incoterms delivery terms.
  2. Customs Entry or Informal Clearance Document (ICD)
  3. Bill of Lading (B/L, BOL) in sea freight; Air Waybill (AWB) in case of air freight. Data included in the transport document:
    • shipper’s data
    • consignee’s data
    • conditions
    • details of the company/person to be notified of the cargo arrival
    • container number
    • quantity, type, and weight of goods.
  4. Other documents relating to the importation.

You must keep all relevant commercial documents relating to the importation for five years from the day of entry.

Generally, importers do not have to hold an import license to import goods into Australia.

When to report the cargo?

  • Sea cargo reports must be lodged at least
    • 48 hours before arrival in the first Australian port, if the voyage is more than 48 hours
    • 24 hours before arrival in the first Australian port, if the voyage is less than 48 hours
    • 12 hours before arrival in the first Australian port, if the voyage is less than 24 hours
  • Air cargo electronic reports must be lodged at least two hours before the estimated arrival time specified in the impending arrival report.

The cargo report must include:

  • a consignee or consignor name or address,
  • goods description that provides the ABF with minimal or no information about the cargo for 48 hours risk assessment.

When the cargo has already arrived, it must be reported before Certificate of Clearance is issued o within:

  • 24 hours after arrival for sea cargo
  • 3 hours after arrival for air cargo.

Customs clearance in Australia – import declaration

Before importing any goods into Australia, you have to provide your Australian Business Number (ABN) to the Australian Border Force and be registered for GST purposes to claim input tax credits (more below).

All goods imported into Australia must be declared and assigned a customs value (in AUD). Therefore, importers (or licensed customs brokers) must self-assess their goods. For current Australia’s tariff classification, check the official website. Most customs duty is 5%.

If there are no substitutable goods in Australia, imports of such goods are exempted from tariffs. Tariffs are also lifted if there is a trade agreement between Australia and the country of origin/target market. Tobacco products and alcohol are subject to additional taxes at the border.

Apart from customs duties, the importer is responsible for applicable GST payments (Goods and Services Tax). The GST is 10% of the value of the taxable importation consisting of:

  • the customs value of the goods
  • any duties or WET payable
  • the value of transport & insurance for the imported goods.

Non-Australian businesses must register for GST if the annual turnover of their supplies connected with Australia is AUD 50,000 and more. Goods valued at AUD 1,000 or less are free of duty and GST, except tobacco, tobacco products, and alcoholic beverages. Still, the 10% is charged on the price of products under a value of AUD 1,000 like jewelry, books, electronic devices, sports equipment, cosmetics, or clothing. There are other exemptions from the GST.

Types of import declaration in Australia

  • Import declaration (N10 form) must be made if the consignment’s value is over AUD 1,000 and the goods are cleared into home consumption.
  • If the cargo is valued under AUD 1,000, the importer must make a Self-Assessed Clearance (SAC).
  • If the consignment valued at more than AUD 1,000 is to be stored in a warehouse before clearing customs, the Warehouse Declaration (N20) is obligatory.

Australia import declaration for air or sea cargo (B650)

Australia import declaration for international mail (B374)

Importing into Australia – special measures

If you import into Australia, you must keep in mind that Australia’s quarantine measures cover:

  • Fresh food
  • Animals
  • Farm products
  • Mining and construction machinery (all machinery imported into Australia must be free from contamination such as seeds, soil, plant, and animal materials)
  • Some packaged foods.

Make sure your goods adhere to labeling regulations.

Sometimes you must register goods before they are brought into Australia, such as:

  • Industrial chemicals (solvents, cosmetics, adhesives, household cleaning products, and toiletries)
  • Therapeutic goods (medicine and medical devices)
  • Chemicals used in the agricultural or veterinary sectors.

Customs clearance in Australia – customs entry

The entry procedure step-by-step:

  1. Imported goods reach their destination port, and they enter Customs control.
  2. Goods are released if ABF is satisfied the goods are reported and declared correctly (providing a commercial invoice, bill of lading, packing list), any required permits are produced, and all duty and tax liabilities are paid. If you are an importer and registered for GST, you can defer the GST payment by participating in the Deferred GST Scheme.
  3. The ABF issues an Authority to Deal (ATD) that provides permission to deal with goods in the Australian market.

Export declarations from Australia

Before exporting goods out of Australia, you must complete all mandatory fields on the Export Declaration and report it to the Australian Border Force. You can lodge the declaration up to six months (one per consignment) before the date the goods are being exported:

  1. electronically through the Integrated Cargo System (ICS)
  2. at one of our counters using the Export Declaration (B957 Form)

You must declare goods if the shipment:

  • need an export permit (regardless of their value)
  • has a value of more than AUD 2,000
  • consists of dutiable or excisable goods where the duty or excise duty is unpaid where duty drawback is being claimed.

Exports of goods from Australia are generally free of Goods and Services Tax (GST) if they meet certain conditions or specific rules.

Customs clearance in Australia – prohibited or restricted goods

Restricted goods to enter Australia

Some goods cannot enter Australia or can be imported with a permit. In most cases, the permission must be produced to the Australian Border Force at or before the time of import. If you import such an item without a relevant document, it will be held by customs.

  • Drugs, medicines, and therapeutic substances
    • Anabolic or androgenic substances
    • Drugs and narcotics
    • Growth hormones and substances of human or animal origin
    • Therapeutic drugs, substances, and goods
    • Tobacco
    • New psychoactive substances and serious drug alternatives
  • Intellectual property and cultural items
    • ANZAC
    • Cultural heritage goods
    • Goods bearing an image of an Australian state or territory flag, coat of arms or seal; Australian Arms, Flag or Seal of the Commonwealth
  • Hazardous goods
    • Asbestos
    • Explosives, plastic
    • Hazardous waste
    • Mercury
    • Ozone-depleting substances/synthetic greenhouse gases
    • Pesticides and other hazardous chemicals
    • Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Terphenyls, and Polyphenyls – Chemicals
  • Weapons
    • Body armor and extendable batons
    • Chemical weapons
    • Electromagnetic Weapons
    • Knives and daggers
    • Warfare Goods and other Weapons
  • Firearms
    • Firearms and firearms parts, accessories, and ammunition
    • Imitation firearms
    • Paintball markers
    • Soft air (BB) firearms
  • Animals and plants
    • Cat and dog fur products
    • Dangerous dog breeds
    • Endangered animal and plant species – CITES
    • Fish
    • Toothfish
    • Tobacco – unmanufactured leaf and tobacco refuse
  • Consumer products
    • Ceramicware – glazed
    • Glucomannan, certain seat accessories and sun visors, certain toys, certain water ski releases, and candles/candlewicks containing leads
    • Cosmetics – toxic materials
    • Counterfeit credit, debit, and charge cards
    • Dog collars with protrusions
    • Erasers, novelty – toxic materials
    • Electronic fly swatters/mosquito bats
    • Incandescent lamps
    • Laser pointers
    • Lighters
    • Money boxes, novelty – toxic materials
    • Tobacco – Chewing and oral snuff
    • Pencils or paintbrushes – toxic materials
    • Toys – toxic materials
  • Miscellaneous
    • Rough diamonds – Kimberley Process
    • Suicide devices
    • Ice Pipes
    • Kava
    • Pepper and OC spray
    • Pornography and objectionable material
    • Sanctioned countries/entities
    • Signal jammers/signal jamming devices
    • Viable material derived from human embryo clones
    • Woolpacks
  • Defense and Strategic goods
    • Radioactive substances
    • Security Sensitive Ammonium Nitrate (SSAN)

Restricted goods to leave Australia

Just like there are some restrictions on imports, exporting some goods is also restricted, and permission is needed:

  • Animals and plants
    • Australian native animals and plant species
    • Cat and dog fur products
    • Endangered animal and plant species – CITES
    • Toothfish
  • Firearms: Firearms and firearms parts, accessories, and ammunition
  • Defense and Strategic goods:
    • Biological agents
    • Certain chemical compounds
    • Nuclear Material
    • Radioactive substances
    • Security Sensitive Ammonium Nitrate (SSAN)
  • Weapons: Electromagnetic Weapons
  • Consumer goods: Counterfeit credit, debit, and charge cards
  • Intellectual property and cultural items: Cultural heritage goods
  • Hazardous goods
    • Hazardous waste
    • Mercury
    • Ozone-depleting substances/synthetic greenhouse gases
    • Pesticides and other hazardous chemicals
  • Miscellaneous
    • Rough diamonds – Kimberley Process
    • Human body fluids, organs, and other tissue
    • Pornography and objectionable material
    • Sanctioned countries/entities
    • Suicide devices
    • Tablet Presses and Encapsulators
    • Viable material derived from human embryo clones
    • Wine and brandy
  • Drugs, medicines, and therapeutic substances
    • Precursor substances
    • Prescription medicines

Customs clearance in Australia – standards

Products imported into Australia must comply with relevant regulations. Australia’s national standards body is Standards Australia. The organization represents Australia on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), PASC (Pacific Area Standards Congress), and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

  • Foods are under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE).
  • The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) regulates customer equipment, customer cabling, and other devices (the C-Tick mark).
  • The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications sets the Australian Design Rules and Australian automotive standards for vehicles.
  • Original Equipment has to comply with Quality System QS9000.
  • Permits for medical devices and health-related products are issued by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

For importing specific product groups, check the official guides.

What if you fail at customs in Australia?

  • If you submit incorrectly prepared documentation, you may be imposed heavy penalties and bear shipping line charges for customs delays.
  • If you import/export prohibited goods without relevant permission or license, your goods can be seized. Moreover, you can face penalties such as 10 years of imprisonment or/and up to 2,500 penalty points.
  • If you report your imported cargo late, you can be fined AUD 8,100 (for a business, for an individual – AUD 2,700).

The information is provided for reference only and is subject to change.

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