Importing from China to Australia: A Complete Guide

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About to import products from China to Australia? This guide is a comprehensive introduction to everything that Australian importers must know, before getting started.

Keep reading, and learn more about Australian product safety standards, mandatory labeling requirements, GST, customs duties, and other import taxes.

As a bonus, this guide also includes an exclusive Import Cost Calculation Case Study, providing you with a tool for calculating all relevant taxes and fees in Australia.

Australian Product Safety Standards

Australia regulates products in many industries, including Children’s products, furniture, vehicles and chemicals in consumer products.

When importing from China to Australia, the buyer is responsible for ensuring compliance with all mandatory product safety standards, and compliance procedures.

As such, you must keep track of the following:

a. Product safety standards (i.e., AS/NZS standards)
b. Substance restrictions (i.e., AZO dyes)

For many products, you can easily assess the mandatory regulations on Government websites as the system is relatively easy to understand.

However, what is far more complex is the assessment of a Chinese manufacturer’s ability to ensure compliance with Australian product standards.

Normally, a supplier compliance assessment is based on checking existing compliance documents (i.e., test reports and product documents). However, this strategy is very hard to replicate, for importers in Australia – simply because so few suppliers can provide documents proving compliance with Australian standards and regulations.

In many industries, it can be a challenge to find suppliers with corresponding EU and US compliance documents.

et, it’s far more likely that a Chinese supplier can provide compliance documents valid in the EU or US.

Hence, Australian importers must research which EU or US standards correspond to their own, and then ask for these documents instead. If you are in the Apparel industry and want to assess a supplier’s capability to provide AZO free fabrics, you can just ask for an EU REACH SVHC test report.

If you’re importing bicycle helmets, in which case you must ensure compliance with AS/NZS 2063:2008 – Bicycle helmets, you should look-up the corresponding EN, ISO or ASTM standard. In fact, Australian product standards are in many cases entirely based on standards developed in the European Union and the United States.

Note: A list of regulated products is available on Productsafety.gov.au. However, this site does not include electronic product standards and regulations.


 

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Labelling Requirements for Importers

Australian importers must also ensure that the product, and its packaging, is correctly labeled. There are various types of Labelling requirements for Australian importers to keep track of:

a. AS/NSZ Labelling Requirements (as part of specific product standards)

b. Ingredients Labelling (mandatory for cosmetics and certain other products)

c. Country of Origin (Required for food products and imported goods that require a ‘trade description’)

d. Care Labelling (for apparel and other textiles)

e. RCM Mark (Replacing the A-Tick and C-Tick mark on electronic products)

Note that there is no uniform set of labeling requirements, applicable to all products. As such, you must confirm the labeling requirements that apply to your product.

Don’t assume that your supplier is even aware of the applicable labeling requirements. As such, you must provide them with ‘ready-made’ artwork and labeling files.

Selling on Amazon.com.au

Amazon requires that all products imported to Australia and sold on its platform are compliant with mandatory safety standards and labeling requirements. Amazon is actually more likely to request compliance documents (e.g. AS/NZS test reports) from a seller than the customs or other authorities.

As such, ensure that your product is fully compliant and tested before you start selling on Amazon.com.au.

E-Commerce fulfillment for Australian companies

Even at an early stage, Australian e-commerce companies tend to be outward looking. Many of our Australian customers selling on Amazon, or other market platforms, in the United States and Europe utilize fulfillment centers in Hong Kong.

As such, they can deliver products directly from China, to consumers in Europe, the United States and elsewhere – without the need to first import the products to Australia and pay GST and import duties.

However, I don’t recommend a cross-border fulfillment model for Australian companies selling into Australia, as the duty threshold has been abolished. Further, even foreign sellers are required to get GST registered, if they reach a yearly threshold. You’re better off importing the goods into Australia, assuming that is your main market.

Or, keep some stock left in Hong Kong for your international customers, while you import the rest into Australia for domestic sales.

Goods and services tax (GST)

Goods and services tax (GST) is payable when importing most products to Australia. This applies regardless of whether your company is GST registered.

In fact, even individuals importing from China (and elsewhere) are required to pay GST.

At the time of writing, the GST is set at 10%.

GST Import Cost Calculation

GST (10%) is calculated on top of the sum of the following:

Customs value (FOB Price) + Customs Duty + Shipping to Australia + Shipping Insurance

Below follows a Case study:

  • Customs value (FOB Price) = AU$10,000
  • Customs Duty = 5% x AU$10,000 = $500
  • Shipping = $1,000
  • Insurance: $20

GST = 10% x ($10,000 + $500 + $1,000 + $20) = AU$1152

Australia

Customs Duties

Duty rates vary between 0% to 10%. However, most products imported from China to Australia, are taxed at around 5%.

Follow this link for a full list of Australian duty rates, listed by HS Code.

The Customs duty is calculated on top of the customs value:

Customs Duty = X.X% x Customs Value

Assuming a rate of 5%, and a Customs value of $10,000, you’ll pay AU$500.

You may submit a customs declaration directly to the authorities (electronic or paper filing), or get help to do this from your freight forwarder.

Import Processing Charge

The Import Processing Charge is based on the customs value.

However, unlike the Customs duty rate, the Import Processing Charge is not calculated as a percentage on the Customs value – but instead a fixed cost.

Below follows an overview.

FOB Value: AU$1,000 to AU$10,000

  • Manual Declaration: AU$90
  • Electronic Declaration: AU$50

FOB Value: Above AU$10,000

  • Manual Declaration: AU$192
  • Electronic Declaration: AU$152

Previously, the Import Processing Charge also depended on the mode of transportation (i.e., whether the shipment is delivered by Air or Sea). However, that is no longer the case.

Customs Value (CVAL)

Normally, the Customs value (CVAL) is based on the FOB (Free on Board) price. This includes the following:

  • Unit price
  • Transportation to the Port of Loading (i.e., Shenzhen or Hong Kong)
  • Export Clearance Cost

As such, the following items are not included in the CVAL:

  • Shipping to Australia
  • Shipping Insurance

Click here to learn more about calculating the Customs Value (CVAL) when importing to Australia.

Import Licenses and Permits

Import licenses or special permits are generally not required for most consumer products. However, there are strict requirements in place for importing animals, plants, controlled substances and certain equipment.

Case Study: Total Tax Cost Calculation

Cost  / Tax  Calculation Sum (AU$)
Customs Value (FOB) 1 x 10,000 10,000
Import Duty (5%) 5% x 10,000 500
Shipping Cost 1 x 1,000 1,000
Insurance Cost 1 x 20 20
GST (10%)
10% x (10,000 + 500 + 1,000 + 20)
1,152
Import Processing Fee (Electronic) 1 x 152 152
Total
10,000 + 500 + 1,000 + 20 + 1,152 + 152
12824

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    12 Responses to “Importing from China to Australia: A Complete Guide”

    1. Calisto May 23, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      What are you thoughts on anti-dumping duties being considered for Grinding Media from China by the Australian government?

    2. Marie Seltenrych March 13, 2018 at 12:21 am #

      Hi Fredrik, Today I was trying to get an estimate for print books from China to Australia. I already have a quote for printing and shipping to Port of Brisbane. I tried Customs and got a long drawn out list of unrelated things. Then I called ATO and they were very busy. So frustrating as I am simply trying to compare apples with apples (printing books here in Australia -v- Hong Kong)
      This is the first place I found with any information of value for a simple quote to make a decision.
      The only other thing is the cost of transporting the books (goods) from Brisbane Port to my home address in Margate, 4019. That would apply to parcel post or courier services. It all adds up and makes or breaks a deal. You are my Number One Person today for information that is actually useful for someone. Maybe you could become the next Prime Minister? Thanks so much.

      • Fredrik Gronkvist March 18, 2018 at 11:31 am #

        Hi Marie,

        I doubt that you will save money by using a printing company in China.

        Printing is automated. Hence, low cost labor (China’s main competitive advantage) is not enough to offset the extra shipping costs and taxes.

        Look for a supplier in Australia instead.

      • Lee Phethean July 29, 2018 at 12:17 am #

        Marie, how did you go on with importing your books? I am looking to do that in the next week – just trying to firm up some import cost figures. I live in Sandgate, so very similar situation.

    3. Miaa September 22, 2018 at 11:54 am #

      Hi there
      I purchased plantation shutters from China costing $2250 till it reached Sydney port. Item has arrived and my fees to take the item are further $1500 .
      This doesn’t seem like a normal legitimate amount. Can you advise further please.

      • Fredrik Gronkvist September 23, 2018 at 6:17 am #

        Hi Miaa,

        Did you book shipping according to CIF terms? If so, this is to be expected as CIF doesn’t include local charges in the port of destination. We advice everyone to:

        a. Not book shipping via the supplier (contact a forwarder directly)

        b. Never book according to CIF terms. DAP or DDU only.

    4. todd September 27, 2018 at 4:53 am #

      Hi Guys,

      I was looking at purchasing 10,000 stainless steel ball bearings (2mm each). small bag weighing roughly 500g. Total cost including shipping to Australia is $80. Will this purchase need a customs declaration completed?

      Can you see what additional cost will be placed on this item when in Australia?

      Also, do I have to arrange postage to my house when it is in Australia? how?

      Any help appreciated

      Todd

      • Fredrik Gronkvist September 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

        Hi Todd,

        1. Total shipping cost to Australia cannot be $80. That’s impossibly low. You probably got quoted a CIF price, that is not showing the full cost.

        2. What matters is the volume, not the weight

        3. You must also consider the following costs:

        – Import duty (Often around 5%)
        – GST (10%)
        – Import Processing Charge

    5. Nyamdavaa November 2, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      Hello. I need to purchase leather gloves /all price is 1800$/ from China to Australia. Is any any significant cost around Duty? how much cost for customs and duty, I will pay after item arrived in Australia? thanks

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