Import FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to import FAQ
We have grouped the common and import FAQ regarding freight into various sections. It is good to know the answers to these as an importer, whether you are first time importer or not.
If you need more information or assistance, feel free to ask for help directly by calling us on 1300651233 or sending us a message.
One of the most important import FAQ is what happens if things are held up or changed.
It is rare that this would happen. However, there is no need to worry if your shipment is delayed or needs re-shipping. We will contact you as soon as we are made aware via phone and/or email and work out all the adjustments that need to made to keep your import on track as best as possible. We are here to help you.
Listed here are the common terms used in industry. Be familiar with these and you’ll have an easier time when freighting.
A freight forwarder arranges physical cargo movement for both imports and exports to / from the place of manufacture to the designated delivery address. We liaise with the airline, courier and shipping line services that are available to us to ensure that your freight is moving the most cost effective way according to your time delivery needs.
A customs broker is licensed by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) to customs clear import and export cargo. A customs broker performs customs clearances electronically in most instances and a response is received from Customs to determine if the goods can be collected from the wharf or airline and delivered to the customer.
Personal effects are household and personal items that you personally have owned while you resided overseas. You must be a citizen, temporary or permanent resident returning to take up residency in Australia, or an approved migrant coming to Australia to live. You must have personally owned and used the items overseas for a period of at least twelve months prior to entry into Australia.
Incoterms are international rules that are accepted by governments, legal authorities and practitioners worldwide for the interpretation of the most commonly used terms in international trade.
They either reduce or remove altogether uncertainties arising from differing interpretations of such terms in different countries.
Marine cargo insurance is required to cover you for loss and/or damage of goods while in transit. It is important to ensure your cargo is protected by insurance just in case. Marine cargo insurance covers the transportation of goods from one place to another. The mode of conveyance can be by sea, air, rail, road, parcel post or courier sending.
- Common freight terms and FAQ
- What if my shipment gets delayed or re-shipped at a later date?
- What is a freight forwarder?
- What is a customs broker?
- What is an air freight service?
- What is an sea freight service?
- What is a courier service?
- What are personal effects?
- What are Incoterms?
- What is marine cargo insurance?
- What are free trade agreements?
- Container terms and FAQs
- What are the sizes of air freight containers?
- What are the dimensions of shipping containers?
- What is an LCL shipment?
- What is LCL cargo availability?
- What is an LCL tail lift delivery?
- What is an FCL shipment?
- What is FCL cargo availability?
- What is container detention?
- What is a side loader container delivery?
- What is a standard container delivery?
- Customs and import FAQ
- Import FAQ for tariffs, duties and GST
- What are tariffs and duties?
- What are import regulations?
- What are Commerce (Trade Descriptions)?
- Do I need to provide my ABN if the goods are for my personal use?
- How is the Customs Value (CV) calculated?
- My goods were a gift, why should I pay anything?
- What customs duties payable on imported cargo?
- Is GST payable on imports?
- What foreign currency exchange rate is used to calculate the Duty/GST?
- What is the GST deferral scheme?
- Will my goods be stopped by Customs?
- Do Quarantine rules apply to my cargo?
- What is ISPM15?
- Import documentation FAQ
- Protein powders and health supplements import FAQ
Air freight containers come in a range of sizes. For detailed information air freight container sizes.
Shipping containers come in a range of sizes. For detailed information on shipping container dimensions.
An LCL “Less than Container Load” tail lift is a mechanical device permanently fitted to the back of van or truck which is designed to assist in the unloading of goods from ground level or a loading dock to the level of the load bed of the vehicle, or vice versa. The use of a tail lift can obviate the need to use machinery such as a forklift.
FCL is the abbreviation for “Full Container Load”. This term is commonly used to describe an international sea freight service that is designed for ocean freight shipments of cargo where shipper has exclusive use of sea freight multimodal container. As a rule, ocean freight containers are loaded and sealed by the shipper at the shipper’s facility. Then it’s transported by ocean, rail and/or truck directly to the point of final destination.
This term is commonly used to describe an international sea freight service that is designed for ocean freight shipments. Cargo owners have exclusive use of seafreight multimodal container.
These ocean freight containers are loaded and sealed by the shipper at the shipper’s facility. Then it’s transported by ocean, rail and/or truck directly to the point of final destination.
Container detention is used to prevent the late return of containers. These are charges applied by the shipping lines if the containers are not returned to the designated location within the ‘free time’ period (seven to ten calendar days, including weekends and holidays).
A truck will deliver your 20 or 40 foot container or cargo directly to your site, without the need of a dock or crane. It is an especially helpful mode of delivery when there is limited space either in front of or behind where the container is to be placed. Most side loader trucks can handle both 20 foot and 40 foot containers.
Certain goods brought into Australia require an import permit or approval. Customs and Border Protection may seize or detain such goods pending presentation of the permit. Alternatively, the goods may be a prohibited import and not allowed into the country under any circumstance.
Items that may be detained or seized by Customs and Border Protection include, but are not limited to:
- Performance and image enhancing drugs containing restricted substances
- Laser pointers
- Medications, including herbal preparations
- Videos, DVDs, CDs and books/publications with objectionable or offensive content
- Protrusion dog collars
- Tablet presses
- Animal products made from protected species or with cat or dog fur.
Thus it is best to determine first whether you need import permit for your goods before importing.
A Tariff directly relates to the levied rate on which imported products are classified under. These codes let customs know what tariff rate should be charged to specific products. A Duty is the actual amount of money paid on the imported product. Although, the actual tax reference is the same thing, the import duty paid depends on the quantity imported. For example, if I imported $200,000 worth of the carpets and the tariff was 4.5% them duties would then be $9,000.
Australia has commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on tariffs and tariff quotas, export subsidies and domestic support for agricultural products. All goods imported in Australia require classification via declarations. Declaration procedures are based on self-assessment by importers. Declarations must be made to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which also enforces import restrictions.
The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 states that some goods can’t be imported unless they are correctly labelled with the required trade description. To find out whether the goods you’re importing need a trade description and the guidelines around them, see Customs information on commerce markings.
The Customs value of goods imported into Australia is based on the value of the goods as determined by the importers commercial invoice. The Customs value is combined with other items (customs duty, international transport and insurance costs and, where applicable, Wine Equalisation Tax) to produce the value of the taxable importation (VoTI). It is equivalent to the Australian currency purchase price of the goods.
The law requires that all goods, even gifts, are subject to GST. Whether GST is payable depends on the value of the imported goods. For how to calculate GST on your imports.
Whether a Goods and Services Tax (GST) is payable depends on the value of the imported goods. For how to calculate GST on your imports.
We apply one of two possible exchange rates depending on whether the goods have already been paid for or not.
If at the time of importation the importer has not already transferred payment to the overseas supplier for the goods then we use the customs exchange rate, which is the average of the four major banks at the date of exportation of the goods from the origin.
If the goods have already been paid for and you provide the payment remittance (e.g. T/T, Paypal Receipt, Credit Card Statement etc.) then we use the exchange rate that you paid for the goods on hence the Duty/GST is calculated based on the actual AUD amount you paid.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) operates a scheme that provides for the deferral of GST on imported goods. Customs duty is still payable before the goods are released from Customs control.
Deferral of GST on imported goods extends to all goods that enter into the commerce of Australia, either at the time of importation or from a Licensed Warehouse.
Importers are qualified to apply to the ATO for admission to the scheme if they satisfy certain eligibility criteria including:
- Having an Australian Business Number
- Being registered for GST
- Lodging their Business Activity Statement (BAS) monthly, via the internet-based e-commerce system operated by the ATO
- Paying their Business Activity Statement (BAS) liabilities electronically
- Dealing with the ACBPS electronically
- Not having any debt to or returns outstanding with the ATO
- Have a value over AUD $1,000
- Contain Alcohol or Tobacco of ANY quantity or value
- Contain goods of Customs Interest
- Contain any Customs Prohibited Import
- Check if you’ll need import permit for your cargo to meet the import requirements
- Prepare a packing declaration containing your cargo’s information (cleanliness and packing materials used) for customs to prevent unnecessary delays and cost
- Make sure that your container is free of contaminants like grain and soil. You’ll be required to provide cleanliness declaration regarding this
- All timbers should be treated using the Customs approved method
- Examine other packing materials such as wool, shredded paper, plastics and foam
- Be aware that imports from countries which have a high risk of diseases are inspected thoroughly
- Do not use straw packing. It’s not allowed by Customs for it can carry insects and diseases
- Goods should not be packed in egg, meat or fruit cartons for these may inhibit diseases. These will be destroyed by the Customs
- Do not use timber with bark attached. Bark is prohibited
International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) is an International Phytosanitary Measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that directly addresses the need to treat wood materials of a thickness greater than 6mm, used to ship products between countries. Its main purpose is to prevent the international transport and spread of disease and insects that could negatively affect plants or ecosystems.
ISPM 15 affects all wood packaging material (pallets, crates, dunnages, etc.) requiring that they be debarked and then heat treated or fumigated and stamped or branded, with a mark of compliance.
Knowing the required import documents for your cargo will give you a smooth and worry-free import process. Here are the import FAQ regarding import documentation.
A bill of lading (sometimes abbreviated as B/L or BOL) is a key document used in the transport of goods. Its main purpose is to provide a record of shipment for goods. It is also a receipt for cargo accepted for transportation and must be presented to take delivery at the final destination.
The certificate of origin (CO) is a document to certify the place of growth, production or manufacture of goods. It is required when exporting to specific countries, when requested by the consignee for customs clearance, or when it’s stipulated in a letter of credit.
The CO identifies goods and contains an express certification by a government authority, or other empowered body, that the goods in question originate in a specific country.
Although obtaining a CO is straightforward, it’s important that specific procedures are followed:
- You must include an exporters information form update.
- Evidence of origin (ie. copies of the invoice, a bill of lading, a letter of credit, or a statutory declaration) must be supplied prior to stamping.
- Exporters must provide a copy of the documents being stamped for Chamber records.
- Importantly, certificate of Australian origin forms can’t be used for any other origin, other than Australian.
Find out about ATA Carnet.
An import FAQ that comes up from time to time is in regards to protein powders. An import permit is not required for commercially prepared and packaged protein powders in quantities of no more than 10 kilograms or 10 litres. Just make sure that they are intended for human consumption only and manufactured in one of the countries recognised by the the Department of Agriculture as Foot-and-Mouth disease free (FMD).
See the list of FMD free countries here.
Commercially prepared and packed protein powders for personal use only are permitted to contain enzymes and/or egg proteins without requiring a permit.
Note: For products which contain ingredients sourced and or manufactured in a country NOT listed in the FMD approved country list, please refer to the ICON case for Dairy Products (excluding cheese) from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) – Unapproved Country List for Dairy Products.
- It Is a human therapeutic dietary supplement or natural medicine containing ingredients of plant origin only (this may be supported by product labelling, an accompanying brochure or internet printout, or a letter from a doctor)
- Is imported into Australia (whether personally or by post) by a person who intends to use it for their own personal use
- In a quantity of no more than three months supply as per the label dosage advice, or, as per letter in English from a medical practitioner, naturopath or alternative health provider, or, as per statutory declaration by the importer stating that the product is for personal use only and is less than 3 months supply
- Is commercially prepared and packaged. The product must be in one of the following forms: capsules, tablets, vials for injection, liquid, powder, ointment.
Personal consignments of all dried plant parts (including seeds, fruits, herbs, bark and roots) and plant part mixes for human consumption or human therapeutic end use weighing no greater than 1 kg per product type are permitted if they meet the following import conditions:
- Products weighing more than 1 kg must comply with commercial conditions
- All material in the consignment must be thoroughly dried and not capable of propagation
- Each consignment will be subject to an inspection to verify that it is free of prohibited seeds, live insects, soil and other quarantine risk material
If the consignment is not botanically labelled, the dried herbs are not listed on ICON, or the officers cannot identify the plant matter and the consignment does not contain seeds, then the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:
- Heat treatment (T9569)
- Gamma irradiation (T9651)
- Destroyed at the importer’s expense
If seeds are found on inspection the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:
- Gamma irradiation (T9651)
- Destroyed at the importer’s expense
After inspection and treatment, all consignments that meet the above import conditions will be released from quarantine. For more information on buying medicines online or from overseas please refer to Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).