One of the first things you must do if you’re considering getting into the importing business, is learn the ins and outs. This means more than figuring out the costs to buy and then ship the products; you must educate yourself, ASAP, on the laws related to border control.
Whether individuals or companies don’t have to hold an import licence to import items into Australia, permits are required to clear particular types of products through customs. There are also stringent rules around which goods can and can’t be brought into the country at all.
Australian Border Force (ABF) is the agency designated with protecting the nation’s border. The ABF enables legitimate travel and trade and stops threats of many different kinds from endangering the country’s environment, animals, and inhabitants.
Australia has one of the largest and trickiest border environments on the globe. The ABF has not only all major and regional international airports to look after, but also around 37,000 kilometres of coastline, 60 international seaports, and a 10-million-square-kilometre offshore ocean zone to protect.
Every week, the agency has to inspect approximately 700 ships, 750,000 air passengers, and 1.1 million mail items. The goods you bring into Australia have to adhere to certain regulations to get past border security.
Packages must be clearly and correctly labelled, for starters, with an accurate description of the goods inside. There must also be information listed about the country in which the products were made or produced. Importation costs are a factor, too. These are often waived for packages valued at under $1,000 (although not always) and calculated according to factors such as the value of the goods, the category of the items, and how they are shipped (i.e., air or sea).
There are numerous and complex methods of calculating how to value goods for customs purposes, so it’s best to seek advice from a customs broker. These specialists can help you to determine the best calculation method to use for different kinds of deliveries.
As a business owner, the onus is on you to understand your rights and responsibilities when importing goods, and to adhere to the appropriate regulations. This includes not trying to bring in prohibited goods illegally. Some prohibited items or that you must get special permission for are:
- Weapons, including things like automatic knives, blog guns, concealed blades, daggers, and firearms
- Electric shock devices
- Fake designer goods
- Live plants
- Live animals, particularly unique or exotic ones
- Ozone-depleting substances
- Many types of drugs and chemicals
- Pirated DVDs
- Soil mud or clay
- Consumables such as seafood, seeds, fruit, and vegetables
If you try to import prohibited or restricted goods without having the necessary licence or written permission, your assets may be seized. You may also face harsh penalties such as up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a $525,000 fine, or both.
Many people and organisations do try to get around these regulations each year though. In fact, according to a 2018 story on News.com.au, Australian border forces intercepted approximately 340,000 biosecurity risk items trying to be smuggled into the country in 2017. Authorities confiscated things such as crucified bat skeletons, bear bile, tiger tooth necklaces, skinned frogs, steroids, ballistic helmets, growth hormones, and ice pipes.
While you’re surely not be going down this path, do be aware that sometimes even things you think are entirely innocent could be seen as an issue by border security. Speak with your suppliers about the specific makeup of each item in your shipment. Having as much knowledge as possible about this and all the Government restrictions will help you to protect yourself from unfortunate financial and legal repercussions.