Before you decide to purchase and import goods from overseas, you must familiarise yourself with the legal requirements, and identify possible legal issues that can arise.
1. You Don’t Need a Licence to Import But You May Need A Permit
Companies and individuals are not required to hold a licence to import goods into Australia. However, depending on what your goods are, you may need to obtain permits or treatment to clear goods through customs. For example, some products may be subject to certain biosecurity import conditions and quarantine regulations, and are not permitted entry unless an import permit is obtained. The Department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), grants import permits before goods arrive in Australia for commodities such as food products.
For an overview of the process, check out the Department of Agriculture and Water Resource’s How to Import Goods in Australia.
Also, if you import plant, mineral, animal or human products, they may need to be quarantined, inspected and treated by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for pests or diseases.
A tool you can use is the Australian Government’s Biosecurity import conditions database. This database will help you identify what import conditions exist and if an import permit is required.
2. You Must Follow Importing Laws and Government Regulations
There are government laws and regulations that you must follow if you want to avoid breaking the law and having your imports seized by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. These regulations exist to protect domestic industries, consumers, and the environment from harmful and dangerous goods imported from overseas. For example, if you wish import therapeutic goods (medicines or medical devices), you must refer to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, which sets out the legal requirements for import of therapeutic goods in Australia. There are many regulations you can familiarise yourself with that covers quarantine, trade management, prohibited imports, etc.
If you are unsure about whether the goods you are purchasing and importing are prohibited or retracted, check out the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
Also check out our post on what consumer products are banned in Australia.
3. There May Be Duties and Taxes You Will Need to Pay
All goods imported into Australia are cleared through the border. There may be duties, taxes or charges that apply if your goods are worth a certain amount.
- If your goods are imported through air or sea cargo or international mail and are valued at $1,000 Australian dollars or less (low value imports), there are no duties, taxes or charges to pay.
- If your goods are worth more than $1,000 Australian dollars, you are required to fill out an Import Declaration, and pay duties, taxes and charges.
- If you are importing goods like tobacco or alcohol, you will need to pay duties and taxes regardless of their value.
Before you enter goods, you need to supply an Australian Business Number (ABN) to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Also, you must be registered for GST purposes and have an ABN to claim input tax credits.
If you are a first-time importer, or need more information about costs and what forms you must fill in, check out Clearing Goods Through The Border.
4. Your Goods Must Be Correctly Labelled With A Trade Description
Certain goods must be correctly labelled with a trade description before they can be imported into Australia. Basically, a trade description must state, indicate or suggest directly or indirectly how or by whom the goods were made, produced, packed or prepared.
There are requirements the trade description must satisfy:
- Be in the English language and in prominent and legible characters.
- Include the name of the country where the goods were made or produced.
- A correct and accurate explanation of the goods.
- If the goods are not prepacked, then a principal label or brand must be attached in a prominent position, as permanently as practicable, to the goods.
If your imported goods do not meet the labelling requirements, it may be seized.
For more information about the labelling requirements, check out the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
5. You May Have To Register Certain Goods
Goods that contain industrial chemicals like cosmetics, solvents, adhesives, plastics, inks, printing and photocopying chemicals, paints, household cleaning products and toiletries, require registration.
Also, “therapeutic” (medicine and medical devices) goods must be registered in accordance with Therapeutic Goods Administration laws.
You have an obligation to comply with registration, particularly if you are importing chemicals that are used in the industrial, agricultural or veterinary sectors.
There are many considerations to be made when purchasing and importing goods from overseas into Australia. If you do comply with your obligations and the relevant laws and regulations, you are not at risk of having your goods seized.
If you have any questions, or require advice or assistance you can contact a business lawyer.
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