10 Steps to Succeeding At Importing Goods to New Zealand

Your 10-step guide

Shipping containersImporting goods into New Zealand can be a great way to expand your customer base and what you can offer them. Especially if you can’t find a local manufacturer. However, it’s important to be aware of the challenges, regulations and costs that come with importing from overseas.

You may need to transfer money internationally as well. Our comparison table helps you compare the rates and fees of different banks and providers.

Before you order your first container, read through our handy ten-step guide to understand what importing involves.

1. Importing laws and government regulations

You’ll need to make sure you’re allowed to import the particular product, animal or item you’re intending to import before you start. It’s important that you research this before you go ahead. You can do this through the New Zealand Customs website.

MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) must be satisfied that it meets import regulations and rules and doesn’t pose a biosecurity risk. If it’s a food product, it needs to meet food safety and labelling requirements.

All business or commercial goods coming into New Zealand need to be declared. You’ll need to lodge the details of your imports through the import entry clearance process with Customs, no later than 20 days after the goods arrive.

You can lodge your details in advance – this is often preferred (and sometimes required) by MPI. How far in advance depends on how your goods are being delivered.

Two ways to declare what you are importing:

  1. Online declaration website (external link)
– designed for infrequent importers and exporters.
  2. Installing and using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) software from a private provider – the global standard platform for exchanging business data used by all large-scale importers.TIP: You will need to register in order to lodge your import documentation through the above methods

2. Find out if you need a specific permit

Some items are also prohibited from import. You can find more information about these on the customs website.

In general, you will be prevented or restricted from importing dangerous chemicals, pharmaceuticals, narcotics, certain foods, weapons, tobacco, and some biological materials.

3. Learn if your goods need to be quarantined

Because New Zealand relies heavily on its trade in agricultural products, they have to make sure that any pests and diseases that could threaten agricultural and horticultural industries are kept out of the country. For that reason, they have very strict biosecurity regulations and there are severe penalties for anyone who breaks them. People failing to declare goods with a biosecurity risk can receive an instant fine of $400, be fined up to $100,000 and/or face up to five years in prison.

Therefore it is best to do your research!

Go to prohibited and restricted items for more information.

4. Tariffs and Taxes you’ll have to pay

You will almost certainly have to pay some taxes and tariffs on your imported goods. Spend some time learning about on the customs website.

  • Import entry costs and processing charges.
  • How to value good for customs duty taxes.
  • Find out if you have to pay goods and services tax
  • Getting the right tariff for your goods.
  • Excise duty on alcohol: The Excise and Excise-equivalent Duties Table in the Working Tariff Document of New Zealand has a full listing and description of all the excisable goods and excise rates.

5. Understand the charges for import duty, and goods and services sales tax

As a general rule, most goods brought into New Zealand are subject to Customs duty, goods and services tax, and certain other specific levies.  – Some of these levies Customs will collect on behalf of other Government agencies.

This principle applies whether you are bringing in goods in your suitcase, have ordered them on the internet, or are a regular importer for business reasons.

There are, however, other classes of goods which you may bring in with their duty reduced or which are free of duty entirely.

There are many rules and it is a complex area – so it is well worth the effort to understand the terms and conditions before working out what customs duties and charges you may be faced with.

Costs to consider:

  • Import entry costs and processing charges. That is, customs will charge you a fee for processing your goods.
  • Customs import duty is calculated as a percentage of the price you paid for the goods. The duty rate can range from 0% to 10%, but the rate for most goods is 5%.
  • Goods and services sales tax (GST) will also be charged based on the following:
    • The valuation of the goods plus;
    • The customs import duty amount plus;
    • The cost of insuring the goods and transporting them to New Zealand

This is just intended as a general guide. These charges can be influenced by what you’re bringing in, excise taxes, free trade agreements, and many other factors. Please check with the New Zealand Customs page for specific information.

6. Take advantage of any concessions

All goods imported into New Zealand must be classified within the Tariff of New Zealand.  Depending where the goods are classified will determine the amount of tariff duty payable.

In a lot of cases, imported goods will attract no tariff duty at all. This is because most goods in the Tariff are duty-free (although GST will still remain payable). But a 5% and 10% tariff duty applies to some goods.

If an importer is unsure where goods should be classified in the Tariff, a tariff rulings service is provided by Customs.

Under New Zealand’s existing free trade agreements, preferential tariffs might apply to goods imported from specific countries if certain requirements are met. This means that those goods would have a lower rate of tariff duty then what is normally applied under the Tariff.

A good may also become duty free by way of a tariff concession. Tariff concessions are generally approved for goods where no suitable alternative goods are produced or manufactured locally in New Zealand.

7. Understanding free trade agreements

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) assist New Zealand traders (exporters and importers) by providing improved access to partner markets, and reducing trade barriers (such as Customs procedures) in those markets.

As well as other things, an FTA establishes:

  • Preferential tariff rates for goods imported into the countries party to that Agreement
  • Rules by which goods can qualify for those preferential tariffs (rules of origin)
  • Customs procedures for claiming preferential tariff rates (rules of origin procedures)
  • General principles for customs procedures among the countries party to an Agreement.

Additional information is available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website.

8. Other costs for importing goods to New Zealand

There are several other costs you’ll need to be prepared for:

  • The cost of buying the goods in the first place.
  • Shipping and logistics costs for overseas and domestic shipping.
  • Freight handling charges levied by airports or seaports.
  • Insurance costs.

9. Make sure your goods are labelled accurately

At a minimum, imported goods must be properly labelled. This includes the country of manufacture and origin, a true description of the goods, a sender’s address, and a recipient’s address. The labels should be in English, attached to the goods in a prominent position and be clear and easy to read.

10. Check with the authorities if in doubt

Everyone’s circumstances and import requirements are different. It’s vital that you check all the information in this guide and then speak to customs to find out any other information you need.

Case Study

Terry has dual citizenship between Australia and New Zealand and has decided to expand his business to Auckland. Terry owns three bars in Melbourne and wants to try to make his business grow overseas.

Although Terry has given a great amount of thought to his investment and the way he will transfer his funds, he hasn’t given much thought to New Zealand’s importing laws and government regulations with regard to Terry needing to import certain alcohols for his bar. Luckily, his friend mentioned that he research on the website, and Terry found New Zealand’s government page really helpful – he could easily obtain importing information for each product he needed to import.

Terry has successfully opened his bar in Auckland now, and has declared all the goods he needed to and paid all the duty, good and services costs and tax. Now time to focus on his business!

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