Importing from the United States
Importing from the States – A working guide
Have you ever thought about buying that top of the range product from the US, but just weren’t sure if it was worth it? Have you already shipped it over and now eagerly await its delivery, but have no knowledge of Australian customs? This guide is designed to answer questions like this and more by presenting a step-by step walkthrough for anyone who hasn’t dealt with purchasing expensive items overseas (ebay, private sales, online stores etc).
In this example, I will run through my own experience in purchasing and shipping a laptop computer from a private seller in the United States to Brisbane, Australia. This guide eventuated because of my own frustrations with the system and a lack of understandable, collated information on what to expect when undergoing this process.
My experience begins with a visit to the popular enthusiast site, notebookforums.com. It was on this site that a private seller was advertising competitive deals for the Dell XPS range of laptop computers. Following a quick currency conversion, I was overwhelmed when I realized that I would be saving around $1000 on a top of the line notebook (if I had purchased it from Dell Australia). This immense savings, coupled with several bad experiences on ebay (beware of Dell XPS scams, ebay is having a real problem dealing with them at the moment), cemented my intentions to take a risk and try organize something with this seller.
Following several emails, and an international phone call (VOIP works wonders) I had knocked an additional $50US off the price and obtained the seller’s contact details. This is an important step for any international transaction – you will need all their details; as listed below. I chose to do an International Bank Transfer through Commonwealth Bank. I was extremely impressed as they actually phoned me to check that I had authorized the transfer. I did have to raise my daily transfer limit, which was accomplished with a quick phone call.
Seller’s Details; • Full name • Full address (incl. postcode) • Phone number • Account number of their bank • Street address of their bank • SWIFT number OR Routing number
Now you are ready to ship the laptop over. The cheapest service to use is United States Postal Service (USPS), their equivalent of AusPost. Shipping is the cheapest through these guys, and you can also insure the item for relatively cheap (highly recommended). They also guarantee a delivery date, so if it doesn’t arrive in Australia by then you will receive a refund on your shipping costs. Their parcel tracking is average, and also slow to update but still does the job. Global Express Mail shipping (and insurance for up to $3000US) for my item was $106US. The seller will need to fill out a customs declaration prior to shipping, which will be attached to the box and used by Australian Customs to identify and value your item.
The whole international process took only 2 days to leave the United States. It then arrived in Australia on the 26th June, totalling just under a week in transit.
Once the package arrives in Australia, Customs will send out a notification form via registered post. This took two days to arrive at my house. From here, you will have a lot of choices as to how to get your hands on the item
If your item is valued to be under $1000AU, then good news! Your item will be released following an inspection and delivered by AusPost without any need to pay customs fees or duty. Please note that Customs has strict guidelines on importing pirated or counterfeit goods, as well as biological matter, so if you are unsure about the contents of your parcel (does it contain pirated CDs?) you should ring Customs and find out more information.
Items valued over $1000AU are required to be entered formally into the system. From here, you take on the role of the ‘importer’ or ‘owner’ of the goods. You have three options;
1. Electronic lodgement – self This is the avenue I followed, and it involves filling out 5 separate forms. Most notably, you will need to register as a client in the Integrated Cargo System, which basically classes you as an importer. You will also need to fill out an identical form for the ‘supplier’ or person you are purchasing from. I strongly suggest faxing the forms for quick processing. Fees do apply for this process.
2. Electronic lodgement – customs broker If you don’t want to bother dealing with Customs directly, you can employ a customs broker who will formally lodge it all for you. You don’t need identity documents, but you will need all the details of the supplier, yourself and the Customs information sheets. Use the site in the Useful links section to find a broker near you. Fees vary from broker to broker so just email or call them for a quote.
3. Lodge in person at Customs office Simply walk into your nearest Customs office with all the forms filled out and EOI documents ready. I found out the hard way not to forget any documents as they are quite blunt with you if you don’t have everything. They refuse to serve you if you don’t have all the necessary items, and cannot look up any information for you. So be warned!
Documents you will need;
As part of Evidence of Identity Checks, you will need one primary and multiple secondary documents. I didn’t have my primary documents on hand but they weren’t too concerned. I would recommend using them if you do have them though.
• Passport, birth certificate or similar (not strictly enforced) • Driver’s license, Medicare card, Student card, Credit card etc
• Customs clearance information form (cover page from Registered mail – it will have a Reference number – Q xxx xxx) • Copy of international transaction or printed receipt proving the value of the item • Registering as a client in the Cargo system x 2 –Supplier & Owner • Import declaration – you will need to ring Customs to get a Tariff Classification number or alternatively you can look it up yourself online (http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=4273) • (Optional) Credit card payment form, if you want quick processing
Following a successful application, all you need to do now is wait for the Customs officers to clear your item. I recommend chasing them up, as my officer ‘forgot’ (own words) to phone me to confirm the amount to be paid. Consequently, it took Customs one and a half weeks to clear the package from arrival in Australia to dispatch via AusPost.
Nearly there! From here, AusPost will deliver your item to your door, and leave a pickup note if you aren’t at home. This will take 1-3 days depending on how far you live from the nearest Customs holding center.
Breakdown of costs
Purchase price of laptop (Dell XPS M1710) $2200US = $2972AU
Shipping and Insurance (USPS Global EMS) $106.05US = $143.3AU
Customs Fees and Duty Charges $350AU
Total Costs $3465.3AU
Identical system from Dell Australia $4584.80AU
Savings by Importing $1119.5AU
In summary, even with the additional fees and charges from Customs, it was still more than worthwhile to import the laptop. Hopefully, this guide will help others to make up their mind.
bennyg adds: When I imported my Asus G51J-A1 in late 2009, the Customs bill was as follows: Processing Fee was a flat $55, the rest is not Duty but GST: 10% of value of item pre-shipping.
As a business registered for GST I could then claim the GST back as input tax credits (yay), as well as claim the 'Small Business Tax Break' for an extra 50% deducted value (double yay). Despite being gouged US$240 on express international shipping (xoticpc refused to send via a cheaper option but noone else would do the specs I wanted) - I ended up $300 and a X25MG2 80Gb SSD ahead vs. buying locally.
I had to wait 3 weeks however for the model to come in stock... 2 weeks to process payment and customise... and then all the public hols over christmas added an extra 2 weeks from despatch till delivery. --Bennyg 06:15, 10 December 2010 (UTC)
How long will the entire process take?
It took me around 3 weeks from start to finish, with only a couple of hiccups. This includes waiting for the international money transfer to take place (only 2-3 business days). Don’t be afraid to harass Customs regarding clearance, as it took them 3 days to clear 7 parcels, and then they forgot to ring me for payment confirmation.
Can’t I just get the seller to make up a valuation price on the import declaration?
Well, at first I thought maybe you could, but I would suggest doing the right thing. Lying about the value of item could work out in lowering duty etc, but if Customs thinks the value is incorrect, they may change the amount based on a similar product in Australia. This could end up costing you much more. Do the right thing!
Can’t I just say it’s a gift?
Duty and Customs fees still apply to gifts! The myth that gifts will get through Customs automatically is incorrect.
Useful numbers: Auspost: 13 13 18, and then option 1 for international shipping, and then either option 1 or 2 for express (I'm not sure what the difference is so you should listen - if you ship USPS, use #1)
A direct number I was given to get to international shipping: 1800 007 678
--.:vulcanis:. 17:36, 6 Jul 2006 (EST)Tristan Casey aka .:vulcanis:.