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Receiving goods from overseas

Any item brought into Australia from an overseas country is considered an import.

When you receive goods from a freight service, you may get a bill from them to recover the costs they have had to pay to clear your package through Australian Customs.

  • Books—if you order books online and they arrive directly to you from another country you are considered to be importing such goods.
  • Other examples of imported goods include clothing, foods, and electrical equipment.
  • All goods imported into Australia must be cleared by Customs, whether they are imported by air, sea or post.
  • While imports of low value will generally be released by Customs for delivery direct to consignees, importers are responsible for obtaining a formal Customs clearance for consignments of goods above set value limits.
  • Check out the Customs website at or contact Customs Cargo Support on 1300 558 099.

Visit the Know before you go section of the Customs web for information in languages other than English.

  • Quarantine

    Quarantine and the import of goods

    If you want to bring something into Australia but you are not sure whether it is permitted, you can search ICON. ICON is the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service’s (AQIS’s) import conditions database. It contains the Australian import conditions for more than 20,000 foreign plant, animal, mineral and human products. Simply type in the item you are unsure about and ICON will inform you of any restrictions.

  • Customs duty

    Customs duty, where applicable, is levied on many items entering Australia, whether or not the goods require a formal Customs clearance. Customs duty rates vary and depend on a number of factors such as the type of goods and country of origin. See the Customs charges section on this page for more details.

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)

    GST applies to most imported goods. There are a few exemptions from the GST, the main ones being some basic foodstuffs, some medical aids and appliances and imports that qualify for customs duty concessions. GST is applied at 10% of the value of the taxable importation.

  • Customs Charges

    If you arrange for goods to be brought into Australia, you are regarded by Customs as the importer of those goods. This includes purchases made over the Internet. Your imported goods may arrive in Australia either by airfreight, express courier, sea cargo or via the post office. The method of delivery will determine the Customs clearance formalities and charges.

    All goods (except for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages) may be imported duty and tax-free if their value is $1,000 or less.

    Note: Where there are multiple packages to the same addressee in Australia from a single consignor overseas that arrive at about the same time, then the value of all packages will be combined for duty and tax assessment purposes.

    Some goods commonly purchased over the Internet that are, or contain, restricted items may be detained or seized by Customs. The following link lists current restrictions to importing to Australia, prohibited and restricted imports.

    Imported goods arriving other than by post will require the completion of a Self Assessed Clearance (SAC) declaration before clearance from Customs control (refer to website for more information).

    The duty- and tax-free $1,000 dollar limit is calculated on the Australian value of the goods. For example, if you buy a textbook at home for $45 and it retails in Australia for $120, customs will use the Australian value in their calculations.


    A student orders books from a website in Japan. On delivery, or soon after delivery, the student will receive a bill from the courier company for the Duty, Customs charges and GST. The student is legally responsible for this bill and must pay it. The books used in this example that were purchased for $650.00 online, ended up costing the student $1,001.00 by the time they were received in Australia.

    Note: All amounts used in this example are in Australian Dollars ($AUD). If you are sending items from another country you need to convert the value to Australian dollars.

    This information was current as per the Calculating Duty and GST advice stated on the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service website as at 7 November 2012.

    Customs Charges
    Item Value (AUD$) Student pays on arrival (AUD$)
    Customs value (Cval) of six text books (6 x $200 each)—student paid AUD$650 1200.00  
    Customs duty (Duty) = 5% of Cval   60
    International transport and insurance or postage (T&I) 150.00  
    Value of the Taxable Importation (VoTI) (Cval+Duty+T&I) 1410.00  
    GST = 10% of the VoTI   141.00
    Total payable (Duty + GST) on top of the AUD$650 the student paid)   201.00
    Total cost AUD$851  
  • Budget Shopping in Adelaide

    An alternative to importing goods into Australia is to shop locally. You will find that prices of goods in Australian stores vary from shop to shop, and sometimes the price difference can be significant. Checking prices in a few shops, especially if the goods you are purchasing are expensive, would be a good idea. Shops which generally offer low prices but have a limited range of goods include:

    • Best and Less
    • Cheap As Chips
    • Cunningham’s Warehouse
    • Go-Lo
    • Reject Shop

    Low price departmental stores include: Big W, Harris Scarfe, K Mart and Target.

    The Central Markets

    The Central Markets offers Adelaide’s best range of fresh produce and is the best place for specialist groceries. It sells vegetables, meats, cheeses, nuts, breads, seafood, Asian groceries and halal meat. Fruit and vegetables tend to be cheaper after lunch on Saturdays.

    Supermarkets such as Woolworths, Coles, and IGA Foodland also provide fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, bread, dairy products, and a range of grocery items and cleaning supplies.

    Second-hand goods

    Good sources of second-hand goods include:

    • Other Students (see Noticeboards)
    • Second-hand Dealers
    • Garage Sales
    • Op Shops ("opportunity shops" - usually run by charities)
    • Newspapers, such as The Trading Post or The Advertiser

International Student Support (Kenneth Wills Building)

Call us +61 8 8313 4828
Opening Hours: Monday 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm
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