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How to do business with Australia

Legal considerations

Trade, commerce, banking and taxation are under the legislation of the Federal Government of Australia.

The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 is a national law that applies to the whole of Australia; however, there are a number of regulatory laws and acts that provide a framework in which businesses can operate in individual Australian territories. Specific acts and laws include, but are not limited to:

  • ACT Fair Trading Act 1992 (Canberra) 

  • NSW Fair Trading Act 1987 (New South Wales)

  • NT Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Act 1990 (Northern Territory)

  • QLD Fair Trading Act 1989 (Queensland)

  • SA Fair Trading Act 1987 (South Australia)

  • Further Education Act 1975 (South Australia)

  • Australian Consumer Law (Tasmania) Act 2010 (Tasmania)

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2010 (Victoria)

  • Goods Act 1958 (Victoria)

  • WA Fair Trading Act 2010 (Western Australia)

  • Food Act 2008 (Western Australia)

Contact the Department for International Trade (DIT) team in Australia at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-australia#contact-us for further advice and guidance when finding tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements.

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, business.gov.au]


Standards and technical regulations

Wherever possible, Australia uses international standards. However, some Australian standards have no international equivalent so may require your product to be modified, and could impact how your product enters the market. 

Standards Australia is the body with responsibility for Australian standards. 

Ensure you are meeting Australia’s legal requirements for products by checking the voluntary and mandatory standards and codes of practice at: https://www.business.gov.au/Products-and-services/Product-labelling/Product-safety-rules-and-standards

Australia uses mandatory and voluntary ‘conformity marks’ that indicate whether a product, service or process fulfils certain legal requirements. 

You must also consider whether you need to comply with environmental standards in the country. These are impacted by both federal and state legislation. 

Visit Product Safety Australia at: https://www.productsafety.gov.au for an overview of the product safety laws and mandatory standards implemented in Australia. 

Under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, you risk action if you do not comply with mandatory standards. 

You must express any units of measurement in the metric system and any pre-packaged goods must comply with Australia’s trade measurement laws, which include meeting certain requirements for: 

  • type and unit of measurement

  • label size and placement

  • measuring instruments

Regulations imposed by individual states and territories may have an effect on safety requirements. 

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, Product Safety Australia]

Labelling your products

Australia requires specific labelling requirements for:

  • electronic products

  • foodstuffs

  • chemical products

  • cosmetics

  • most therapeutic products

You must use the metric system on any labelling, and ‘net’ should express mass. 

Australian customs requires you to use a ‘Made in’ mark-of-origin label.

Some products require a trade description label that meets Australia’s Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Regulation 2016.

Find more information on Australian food labelling on the Real Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) website: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


Product liability insurance

Product liability insurance covers the cost of compensation for anyone injured by a faulty product. If you design, manufacture or supply a physical product that is sold or given away for free, you should therefore consider taking out product liability insurance.

See the Association of British Insurers (ABI) website at: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/business-insurance/liability-insurance/product-liability-insurance/ for further information, or alternatively, contact the DIT team in Australia at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-australia#contact-us for contacts of local insurers or specialist brokers.

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

 

Taxation

Double taxation agreement

The UK and Australia have signed a double taxation agreement, which should, in most cases, prevent any double tax liability from the UK and Australian authorities over the same income. If you or your company make money that is taxed in Australia, it should not be taxed a second time in the UK.

If you are a UK company operating in Australia, you will be subject to local taxation requirements. 

Find out more about taxation in Australia on the Austrade website: https://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Guide-to-investing/Running-a-business/Understanding-Australian-taxes

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, Austrade]


Value added tax (VAT)

The sale of goods exported to Australia can be zero rated. You must provide evidence that the goods were exported and keep it as part of your records.  

A 10% tax also applies on the sale of most goods and services.

More information on VAT in non-EU markets can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-exports-dispatches-and-supplying-goods-abroad#vat-on-exports-to-non-eu-countries

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, Exporting is GREAT]


Goods and services tax (GST)

The goods and services tax in Australia is 10% on the sale of most goods and services. 

As of 1st July 2018, GST applies to the sales of low value goods imported by consumers into Australia. The new registration threshold is A$75,000. 

You may need to register for GST if you are a non-resident business selling goods to Australia. 

Find out more about the GST on low value imported goods at: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/international-tax-for-business/GST-ON-low-value-imported-goods/

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

Excise duty

You should make sure that, if you are sending alcohol, fuel, tobacco or other excise equivalent products to Australia, you have paid excise duty. 

Visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/excise-notice-207-excise-duty-drawback/excise-notice-207-excise-duty-drawback to find out more about excise duty and duty drawback outside the EU.

You can also find out about excise duty in Australia on the Australian Taxation Office website at: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Excise-and-excise-equivalent-goods/.

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


Company and corporate tax

Australian resident companies will need to pay 30% of their taxable income in company tax. For SMEs the tax rate is 28.5% for any income years commencing on or following July 2015. 

Find out more about corporate tax in Australia: https://www.ato.gov.au/rates/company-tax/

Capital gains tax

Capital gains tax is a tax that you pay on any capital gain your company makes. It is incorporated into any income tax you pay.

Payroll tax

If you pay Australian wages over the tax-free threshold of the relevant state, you will need to pay payroll tax.

You can check the threshold for each state at: https://www.business.gov.au/Finance/Taxation/Payroll-tax to see if you need to register to pay payroll tax. 

The rate of payroll tax is dependent upon the state in which your employees are located. 

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, business.gov.au, Australian Taxation Office]

 

Customs and documentation

Complying with HMRC regulations to export

To export your goods to Australia, you must make export declarations to HMRC through the National Export System (NES). Visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-declarations-and-the-national-export-system-export-procedures for further details.

You can find out how to declare your exports to Australia through the NES at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/export-declarations-and-the-national-export-system-export-procedures. You must classify your goods as part of the declaration, including a commodity code and a customs procedure code (CPC).

Commodity codes and other details applying to exports in the UK Trade Tariff can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff

Contact the HMRC Tariff Classification Service at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/finding-commodity-codes-for-imports-or-exports#list-of-useful-contacts for more help.

The EU’s Market Access Database (MADB) also has details about import tariffs. Visit: http://madb.europa.eu/madb/indexPubli.htm.

You must declare any goods that you take with you in your luggage to sell outside the EU. See: https://www.gov.uk/take-goods-sell-abroad for further information.

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


Temporary export of goods

You can use an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet to simplify the customs procedures needed to temporarily take any goods on the UK export controls lists into Australia, such as commercial samples or goods for:

  • demonstration

  • exhibition

  • use in repair or maintenance

Visit: https://www.gov.uk/taking-goods-out-uk-temporarily for further information.

You can check at: https://www.ecochecker.trade.gov.uk/spirefox5live/fox/spire/OGEL_GOODS_CHEKER_LANDING_PAGE/new whether you can use an open general export licence (OGEL) for your temporary export. If not, you will need to apply for a temporary export licence. You will need a permanent export licence if the goods are not being returned. To apply for a temporary export licence, use the SPIRE system at: https://www.spire.trade.gov.uk/spire/fox/espire/LOGIN/login

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


Customs

The Australian Border Force regulates any goods imported into the country. 

Import requirements include:

  • import declarations and documents 

  • any duty and tax payments

Most goods are liable for duties and taxes in Australia unless they apply for certain exemptions. 

A goods and services tax of 10% applies to any product imported into the country, a change that came into effect on 1st July 2018. Prior to this, goods valued at under A$1,000 or less were exempt.  

Some products exempt from duty include, but are not limited to: 

  • cars for use by disabled people

  • precious metals

  • health goods

  • certain food and beverages

Check the Australian Border Force website to keep up to date with exemptions from duty at: https://www.abf.gov.au/importing-exporting-and-manufacturing/importing/cost-of-importing-goods/gst-and-other-taxes/gst-exemptions

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

Controlled goods export licences

In order to supply any goods, software, technical information and technology that are on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, you must have a licence. 

Numerous open licences are available if you intend to export military or certain dual use items into Australia. The registration process for these licences is straightforward.

If you are unable to use an open licence to export your goods, you will need to apply for a standard licence. 

You can check whether you need an export licence and apply on SPIRE at: https://www.ecochecker.trade.gov.uk/spirefox5live/fox/spire/OGEL_GOODS_CHEKER_LANDING_PAGE/new.

There are certain products, such as consumer items, that may need additional certification and licensing. These include, but are not limited to:

  • livestock and poultry

  • animal feed

  • medical devices

  • radioactive substances

  • antiques, artworks and other items of cultural significance

  • firearms and ammunition  

You can find a full list of products that may need certification and licencing before they can be exported into Australia at: https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-export/licences

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

Documentation

To start importing goods into Australia, you will need to provide: 

  • a bill of lading/air waybill

  • a commercial invoice

  • a fumigation certificate (if applicable)

  • a manufacturing declaration (if applicable)

  • a packing declaration form

  • packing list permits and licences for regulated products

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

 

Shipping your goods

You can use a freight forwarder to move your goods if you are not knowledgeable about international shipping procedures. A freight forwarder will have vast expertise and familiarity with local documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs and banking practices in Australia.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) at: http://www.bifa.org/home and the Logistics UK at: https://logistics.org.uk/ can assist in locating freight forwarders to transport your goods to Australia.


Posting goods

For information about sending goods by post to Australia, visit Royal Mail at: https://www.royalmail.com/sending/international/country-guides/australia

[Source – Royal Mail]

Packaging regulation

Australian consumer health and safety legislation outlines the requirements for packaging. There are state government packing requirements in place for certain consumer goods. 

In order for your product to be released from quarantine, certain requirements must be met. Quarantine regulations in Australia require:

  • a certificate of fumigation to accompany packaging and pallets

  • that packaging made of wood or plant matter is subject to phytosanitary controls

Wood packaging, including packing cases, boxes and crates, drums and similar packing, pallets, box pallets and pallet collars and dunnage (loose wood used to protect goods and their packaging), is subject to certain specific requirements. These can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/wood-packaging-import-export

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


Shipping restricted, banned and dangerous goods

Certain goods are prohibited from importation and/or exportation. You may not ship these goods into or out of Australia without express permission.

Goods that are prohibited from import/export in Australia include, but are not limited to:

  • asbestos

  • tobacco

  • drugs and narcotics

  • growth hormones

  • firearms

  • cultural heritage goods

  • goods including the image of an Australian state or territory flag, coat of arms or seal

  • goods bearing the image of the Australian arms, flag or seal of the Commonwealth

For more information visit gov.uk’s Shipping dangerous goods page: https://www.gov.uk/shipping-dangerous-goods/what-are-dangerous-goods.


Import restrictions

Australia’s sanitary (animal-related) and phytosanitary (plant-related) restrictions for products that may contaminate its agricultural industry or the environment are very strict. 

Before your products enter Australia, an import risk analysis (IRA) must be undertaken on: 

  • animals, their genetic material and animal products

  • plants (including for potential weed assessment)

  • biological control agents for control of pests

Some goods may be imported but have their use restricted under state laws. 

There is a quota on imports of cheese and curd in Australia, applied under the rights given by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]

Quarantine regulations

Australia has strict biosecurity regulations in place in order to prevent disease and pests coming into the country. They have a thorough inspection or treatment regime.  

You can check whether your goods will be subject to biosecurity import conditions in either Australia or its external territories, such as Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website at: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/online-services/bicon

If your goods encounter quarantine problems at Australian Customs, there is very little you can do. 

Products that could be affected by quarantine issues at Australian Customs include: 

  • farming, mining and construction machinery

  • packaging goods

  • food

  • animals

  • plants

  • minerals

You can reduce the likelihood of your goods being inspected by providing all required documents with your shipment. 

You can find out more about Australian quarantine requirements at: https://www.business.gov.au/Products-and-services/Importing-and-exporting

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, business.gov.au]

Terms of delivery

You should have a clear written contract in all international commercial transactions to minimise any risk of misunderstanding.

Incoterms are a series of widely-used commercial terms for international trade in goods, which clarify, for example:

  • where the goods will be delivered

  • who arranges transport

  • who handles customs procedures

  • who is responsible for insuring the goods, and who pays for insurance

  • who pays any duties and taxes

Incoterms do not apply to the delivery of services. Contracts for the international delivery of services should include a Service Level Agreement (SLA), focusing on desired outcomes such as what the service should achieve.

International trade rules changed in September 2019, so you should check with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which publishes Incoterm rules, at: https://iccwbo.org/resources-for-business/incoterms-rules, for details of the new rules, and also with the UK Government for further general advice and details about current Incoterms at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-trade-paperwork-the-basics#international-trade-contracts-and-incoterms.

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia, ICC]


Reporting a trade barrier

You should report any trade barriers to DIT’s Market Access Team at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/report-a-trade-barrier, as they can make any imported goods and services less competitive than those locally produced by creating regulatory, tariff or technical obstacles. 

[Source – DIT: Exporting to Australia]


UK Export Finance

The UK Government’s credit agency, UKEF, wins export contracts by providing attractive financing terms to their buyers. They can help you:

  • fulfil orders by supporting working capital loans

  • get paid by insuring against buyer default

You can find out more about UKEF’s services and products at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/our-products.

For new business enquiries, email UKEF at: customer.service@ukexportfinance.gov.uk or telephone: 020 7271 8010 between 9am and 5pm.

For up-to-date country-specific information on the support available see UKEF’s cover policy and indicators for Australia at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/country-cover-policy-and-indicators#australia.

[Source – UKEF, gov.uk]


 

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