7 Critical Things To Know About Importing Goods From Overseas in Australia (2023 Update)

7 Critical Things To Know About Importing Goods From Overseas in Australia (2022 Update)

Importing goods from overseas and selling them in the Australian market can be a lucrative business venture. Lower production costs and domestic consumer demand mean that you can sell more for less. 

However, 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. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about selling goods from overseas.

Table of Contents

1. You don’t need a licence to import but you may need a permit

You don’t need a licence when importing goods from overseas into Australia, whether you’re importing as an individual or a company. However, depending on the type of goods you’re importing, you may need to obtain permits or treatment to clear goods through customs.  

For example, some goods may be subject to certain biosecurity import conditions and quarantine regulations. Therefore, in some instances, these products won’t be permitted entry unless an import permit is obtained. The Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) provides import permits prior to importation for goods such as food products. 

Additionally, if you import plant, mineral, animal or human products, they may need to be quarantined, inspected and treated by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for pests or diseases. You can use the Australian Government’s Biosecurity import conditions database to identify what import conditions exist and whether you need an import permit.

2. You must follow importing laws and government regulations

As an importer, you’re required to comply with government laws and regulations. If you fail to comply, your imports may be seized by the Department of Home Affairs. These regulations exist to protect domestic industries, consumers, and the environment from harmful and dangerous goods imported from overseas. 

For example, if you wish to import therapeutic goods such as medicine or medical devices, you must refer to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, which sets out the legal requirements for the import of therapeutic goods in Australia. You should familiarise yourself with regulations concerning quarantine, trade management, prohibited imports, etc.

There are certain goods that you’re prohibited from purchasing and importing, including drugs and narcotics, cultural heritage goods and biological agents.  

For further information, check out the Australia Border Force’s list of prohibited goods. We also recommend that you read about banned consumer products in Australia.

3. There may be import duties and taxes you will need to pay

Products that come into Australia need to clear the border first. There may be duties, taxes or charges and tariffs that apply if your goods are worth a certain amount. Imported goods are typically subject to taxes and duties except when they’re exempt or qualify for a concession. However, concessions are subject to restrictions and exclusions.

  • If your goods arrive via air, sea cargo or international mail and are valued at $1,000 Australian dollars(AUD) or less, you don’t have to pay any duties, taxes or charges.
  • If the value of the goods you’re importing exceeds $1,000 AUD, you’re required to submit an import declaration and pay duties, taxes and charges.
  • Similarly, if you’re importing goods like tobacco or alcohol, you’ll also need to pay duties, including customs duty, taxes and other charges, such as import processing charges, regardless of their value.

Before you import goods, you need to supply an Australian Business Number (ABN) to the Department of Home Affairs. Additionally, you must be registered for Goods and Services Tax(GST) purposes and have an ABN to claim input tax credits.

4. You must label your goods correctly with a trade description

You should label your goods with a trade description before you import them into Australia. The trade description should indicate directly or indirectly how or by whom the goods were made, produced, packed or prepared.

The trade description must comply with the following labelling requirements:

  1. Be in the English language
  2. Be in prominent and legible characters
  3. Name the country of origin where the goods were made or produced
  4. Include a correct and accurate description of the goods
  5. If the goods aren’t pre-packed, then a principal label must be attached in a prominent position, as permanently as practicable to the goods

If your imported goods don’t meet the labelling requirements, they may be seized.

5. You may have to register certain goods

Registration is required for goods that contain industrial chemicals, including the following :

  • Cosmetics
  • Solvents
  • Adhesives
  • Plastics
  • Printing and photocopying chemicals
  • Paints
  • Household cleaning products
  • Toiletries 

Therapeutic goods must be registered in accordance with Therapeutic Goods Administration laws. You also need to register goods if you’re importing chemicals for use in the industrial, agricultural or veterinary sectors.

6. You may be required to pay GST for your imported goods

According to the Australian Taxation Office(ATO), GST must be paid for imported goods unless they’re exempt. If GST applies to your imported goods, you’ll be required to submit your payment for GST along with your customs duty according to division 13-5 of the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 (the GST Act). 

Division 13-20 of the GST Act also states that the rate of GST that applies to taxable importations is 10% of their value. A taxable importation’s value consists of the following: 

  • Transport costs 
  • Insurance costs related to transporting the goods to Australia
  • If applicable, the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET)
  • The imported goods’ customs value (CV)
  • The total amount of duty to be paid

7. Choose your overseas supplier 

You should contact overseas suppliers and determine which suppliers have the ability to export the goods you would like to import to Australia. It’s important to note that some suppliers could be located in countries that don’t speak English and that follow significantly different customs and business methods.

After you’ve identified several potential suppliers, you should compare them to determine the most suitable one for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I need a licence to import goods into Australia?

Whether you’re importing goods as a company or as an individual, you’re not required to have an importing license.

What things can I import from overseas?

There are many things you can import from overseas, including the following:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Yachts
  • Aircraft
  • Animals
  • Antiques
  • Human remains or ashes 
  • Precious metals, coins, jewellery and currency
  • Intellectual property

How much can I import without paying duty in Australia?

You don’t have to pay duty for your imported goods if they have a value of AUD 1000 or less.

How do I import goods?

  1. You should become aware of your importer’s responsibilities and determine which biosecurity import conditions apply to the goods you’re importing
  2. You should ensure your imported goods are packaged and treated in accordance with Australia’s import requirements.  
  3. You must confirm whether the seaport or airport landing your goods is approved to do so. 
  4. You must provide the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment with information regarding your imported goods
  5. Select the destination you want your goods to be delivered to
  6. Prepare the documentation required for your goods. Documents you may require include unpack locations, packing lists and treatment certificates
  7. Determine whether your containers and goods require inspection

How do I prepare to import goods to Australia?

There are several steps involved in preparing your goods for import into Australia:

  1. You should make sure your goods for importation are packaged and treated in accordance with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s requirements for importation
  2. You should make sure the container you’re using to import your goods is clean. This is because every container that’s imported to Australia requires a cleanliness declaration. Contaminated goods and containers will also require treatment leading to delays and additional charges
  3. You must submit a packing declaration for your imported goods that is complete and accurate. The declaration must outline if timber and straw materials were used for packing and information on the cleanliness of the container. If you fail to provide this information, the goods and container will be examined at an Approved Arrangement site leading to delays and additional charges
  4. If you use timber to pack your imported goods, you must ensure that it is bark free and that it has been treated in an approved method. Similarly, if timber is being used to load the goods, you must provide a valid treatment certificate. If you fail to comply, your container will need to be treated when it arrives, leading to additional costs and delays.  
  5. Your imported goods can be treated offshore by a treatment provider that is approved by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
  6. You should check whether your imported goods require treatment using the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

Which packing materials should I use when importing goods?

The types of materials you should use include the following :

  • Shredded paper
  • Inflated dunnage 
  • Wool
  • Plastics
  • Synthetic foam
  • Wood
  • Metal frames

Which packing materials are not permitted?

The following materials are excluded from use:

  • Sacks
  • Egg, meat, fruit or vegetable cartons
  • Second-hand bags
  • Straw 

Materials such as these will be discarded and destroyed, leading to additional costs and delays.

When is an import declaration required?

Import Declarations (N10) are required for a consignment of imported goods when the following conditions apply:

  • The goods have a value of more than $1000 AUD
  • They’re in the process of being cleared for home consumption

Import declarations can be submitted by either the importer or their licensed customs broker. The declaration must provide information about the following:

  • The imported goods
  • Importer details
  • Customs value
  • Tariff classification
  • The method being used to transport the goods


There are many considerations to make when purchasing and importing goods from overseas into Australia.  

If you comply with your obligations and the relevant laws, you’ll be able to sell your goods in Australia.

You hire a lawyer if you have any questions or require further assistance to ensure you meet your legal requirements and avoid legal trouble when importing goods.

Find the perfect lawyer to help your business today!

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