Importing can be an excellent way to grow your business; opening new domestic markets, offering new products or services, or reducing manufacturing costs.
You do not need to hold a licence to import goods into Australia. However, depending on the type of goods and regardless of their value, you may be required to obtain permits to clear goods through customs. You will also need to ensure that the goods comply with safety and information standards.
There is no central body in Australia to assist with importing, however the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Austrade and the Australian Institute of Export (AIEX) can all help.
DIBP provides practical information on importing and buying goods from overseas.
TIP: The International Chamber of Commerce has developed a set of terms (Incoterms) to make it easier to negotiate trade between countries; they are important when you are receiving quotes.
Basic steps for importing goods
Identify potential suppliers and obtain samples and prices
The Australian offices of the following types of organisation may be able to help or provide information:
- International business councils – these can be found by searching online for “ Chamber of Commerce in Australia” eg. American Chamber of Commerce
- overseas trade promotion organisations
- diplomatic missions in Australia such as embassies and consulates.
You can obtain a price from a supplier using Incoterms
Identify whether the products can be imported and if there are any restrictions or quarantine requirements
Labelling and marking on packages and products are also subject to Australian regulations.
Find a customs broker
Customs brokers can assist with import duty rates, tariff concessions and quarantine requirements. The Custom Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia has a directory of customs brokers.
Contact the international division of your bank
You will need to discuss finance, payment options and associated costs.
Understand ‘landed cost’
This includes all costs such as freight forwarding and insurance, or ask your customs broker to do this for you.
Determine the selling price
You will need to ensure there is adequate margin to cover your costs and be profitable.
Place an order with the supplier
Once you have checked your plan is commercially viable, it’s time to place an order with your supplier. Ensure your order is confirmed in writing and that the terms and conditions of sale are clear to both parties.
Contact your customs broker
Make sure they know shipping details, as advised by your supplier.
Provide relevant documentation when goods arrive
You will need to provide the bill of landing/airway bill, commercial invoice and any other relevant documents when the goods arrive in Australia.
Take delivery of the goods
Examine the consignment immediately for insurance purposes. Give a ‘clean receipt’ only once you are satisfied that there is no damage or shortage.