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If you run a business in New Zealand that supplies or works with goods, at some stage you may consider importing or exporting goods. Whether you need components to construct your product, sell food in your online store, or need to ship your products to overseas customers, it is important to know how to navigate the import and export process in New Zealand. Imports into and exports out of New Zealand are subject to extensive regulations, and your experience with the import and export process will vary significantly depending on the:

  • type of goods you are importing or exporting;
  • country you are receiving the goods from; or
  • country you are shipping the goods to.

This article provides an overview of the key considerations for businesses looking to import or export.

Importing

If you are planning on importing any goods into New Zealand, you should first check to see if any of the goods you want to import are controlled or prohibited. Some controlled and prohibited imports include;

  • false or misleading goods (including counterfeit goods, or goods that contain false or misleading representations as to their country of origin or quality); 
  • controlled drugs (prohibited without a permit);
  • animals, including their semen and embryos (prohibited without a permit);
  • explosives (prohibited without a permit); and 
  • food products (including meat, plants, and dairy products, which need biosecurity and food safety approval).

When the goods arrive into the country, you must submit an electronic customs declaration before your goods can clear customs. An electronic customs declaration will include the details of your import as well as its value. You must submit this declaration within 20 days of your items arriving in New Zealand, but you can submit your documentation in advance. The New Zealand Customs Service does not accept direct electronic lodgments, so you should engage a customs broker or freight forwarder to assist with this part of the process. 

You may need to pay customs duties and a GST of 15% on imported products. The customs duty payable will depend on factors such as:

  • the manufacturing origin of the item;
  • the export location; and
  • the item’s tariff classification.

You can use the customs value of your items that you specify in your electronic declaration to calculate GST.

Exporting

Before anything can be exported out of New Zealand for commercial purposes, most of the time you must get export clearance from the New Zealand Customs Service. Export clearance is important to ensure that:

  • no prohibited items leave New Zealand;
  • restricted items leaving New Zealand have the correct permits; and
  • overseas trading partners can trust in the quality and security of New Zealand exports.

Your customs broker or freight forwarder can assist you to obtain export clearance. 

As is the case with imported goods, you cannot export certain products without the necessary permits. For example, dangerous products, human remains, and controlled drugs. 

The export of agricultural and horticultural products (including meat, wine, and dairy) is strictly regulated to maintain quality standards so that New Zealand can continue to be competitive in international markets. You may be able to obtain a certificate of New Zealand origin for your product to use as a mark of quality for your international customers.

Before your goods can depart New Zealand, you will usually need to pay an export entry transaction fee or an outward cargo transaction fee. You may be able to claim a customs duty or GST drawback on certain items. For example, for goods that you have imported and will now be exporting, or where the goods you received were faulty or not what you ordered.

You will also need to ensure that the products you are exporting conform with the laws of the country that you are sending them to. 

Key Takeaways

Before you decide on importing or exporting a product, you should check the New Zealand Customs Service website to see if the product is prohibited or controlled. This site can also give you information as to the types of permits you may need to import or export your goods. You need to submit declarations for importing and exporting, and will need to pay various duties and taxes at import and export. A customs broker or freight forwarder will be able to assist you in preparing and lodging the necessary forms and documents.

LegalVision’s New Zealand regulatory and compliance lawyers can help you draft legal agreements and ensure you are complying with the relevant New Zealand import and export laws. Call 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

FAQs

What imports into New Zealand are prohibited or controlled?

Some controlled and prohibited imports include false or misleading goods; controlled drugs; animals; explosives; and food products.

Do I need to submit an electronic customs declaration?

Once your goods have been imported, you must submit an electronic customs declaration before your goods can clear customs. An electronic customs declaration will include the details of your import as well as its value. You must submit this declaration within 20 days of your items arriving in New Zealand.

What does export clearance check for?

Export clearance ensures that: no prohibited items leave New Zealand; restricted items leaving New Zealand have the correct permits; and overseas trading partners can trust in the quality and security of New Zealand exports.

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