Importing goods into Australia can be a great way to open up options for your business.
You can often find cheaper or different goods from international suppliers compared to what’s available in Australia.
The process of importing goods into Australia can seem daunting though. It’s a lot to coordinate, and there are a number of legal issues to be aware of.
Follow this 6-step guide to importing into Australia to help you through the process.
1. Look for a supplier
It seems obvious, but the first step to importing goods is finding someone to import from!
And it may not be as simple as it seems – you don’t want to be caught out by an unreliable supplier who doesn’t deliver the goods you ordered. Or a supplier who doesn’t provide the quality you expect.
It’s harder to scope out suppliers from other countries, but it’s so important.
Normally you should be able to get a sample from them first. You can also speak to international business councils or diplomatic missions (e.g. embassies or consulates) for some advice.
2. Know what laws apply to your goods
There is no blanket import licence required in Australia.
However, certain industries or types of goods may require a permit or have specific legal requirements. And, every delivery that arrives will need to clear Australian Customs.
This means you need to check what rules apply to the particular goods that you plan to import.
You may need a permit, or your goods may even need to be quarantined on arrival.
The Australian Border Force website has some information about the requirements for different types of imports.
Aside from customs, another set of laws to consider is intellectual property law.
Some goods can be seized at the border if they infringe on trade marks, copyright or use of the Olympic insignia.
Being aware of the import laws in Australia is a crucial step before you arrange the delivery! If you miss a legal requirement, or order prohibited goods, your delivery may be seized at the border and impact your business plan.
3. Understand what taxes apply to your goods
There are certain fees, duties and taxes that apply to imported goods or products.
These can depend on the type and value of the goods or products.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) is one possible tax for importing goods to Australia. Check out the ATO website for more information about GST and importation.
This may seem like a lot of extra cost involved in the import, but the good news is that there are certain concessions that could apply – so it’s worth investigating if you are eligible for any.
For example, there might be a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in place with that specific country. FTAs are agreements that Australia has made with other countries to facilitate trade. They normally mean that import costs are lower. You can find our more about FTAs here.
4. Have you got the right labels?
Not every type of imported good needs to be labelled, but most do.
Generally, labels need to be in English and include the country of origin, a true description of the goods and the addresses of the sender and receiver.
The full labelling requirements are set out on the Australian Border Force website here.
5. Think about product liability and insurance
Product liability means that manufacturers, distributors or suppliers are legally responsible if they make defective goods available to the public and this defect causes loss or damage.
It’s relevant to importers because if the manufacturer is not in Australia, the ultimate product liability falls to the importer of the products.
Because of this, it’s worth considering whether you should get product liability insurance.
If you want to find out more about product liability, check out this article which we’ve written on this topic.
6. Prepare for logistics and related costs
You’ve ticked all the boxes and your import has arrived in Australia – well done!
Now you need to get it to its final destination.
You can’t just store the goods at the airport or dock indefinitely – you’ll need to be on top of your transport logistics.
This includes the shipping and logistics costs for overseas and domestic shipping, as well as freight handling charges from the airports or docks.
Make sure you have proper contracts in place with the people handling your delivery.
You may want to consider whether you’ll need to cover any other insurances or costs.
Planning for these logistics and costs early will save you getting caught out at the final hurdle.
What to take away…
Importing goods into Australia can seem difficult, but following these 6 steps should make the process a lot less confusing.
The main thing is to think about each step carefully, and make sure you understand your obligations each time.
If you need help drafting the right contracts (for example, an Import/Export Agreement), you can get in touch with us any time and we’d be happy to help you through it.
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