Frequently Asked Questions

I thought I could bring in up to $400 worth of goods tax-free?
There is a common misconception that goods purchased online from overseas websites for less than NZ$400 can come into the country (be imported) without incurring any duty, GST, or charges. This ‘rule of thumb’ does not apply to goods that attract both duty and GST, such as clothing, shoes, and accessories. Customs charges maybe payable when the value of these goods exceeds approximately NZ$225.

What if I split my purchases to keep the value below the amount where duty or GST are payable?
The value of an importation is based on all goods imported by a company or person at one time and is not limited to a single financial transaction. If a group of several items, purchased separately by the same person or company, arrive in New Zealand at the same time, the value of these items may be combined which could result in charges becoming payable. 

When don’t I pay Customs charges?
Customs does not collect the duty and/or GST payable on goods imported into New Zealand when the total amount payable is less than $60. This is because below $60 more would be spent on the administration and collection than would be collected in revenue. This threshold is known as the ‘de minimis’. However, this does not apply to tobacco and alcohol products. Duty and GST are collected on these two regardless of the amount.

How is duty calculated?
If duty is payable, then this is calculated as a percentage of the value of the goods.  if the goods have been purchased using a foreign currency then the Customs rates of exchange are used – these are published, in advance, on Customs’ website.

How is the GST calculated?
GST is calculated at 15 percent on the total of the value of the goods, plus duty (if applicable), plus postal/courier and insurance charges.

What is the Import Entry Transaction Fee?
Depending on the circumstances, imported items may attract a Customs Import Entry Transaction Fee (IETF) of NZ$29.26 (GST inclusive). A Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity system entry levy of $19.98 (GST inclusive) is also payable when an IETF is charged, making the total fees payable of $49.24 (GST inclusive).

Why is the Customs exchange rate different to what the banks have?
Customs determines the exchange rates fortnightly in advance, based on data sourced from Westpac. New rates are collected on the morning of the day they are determined and published eleven days before the effective date.

The reason for the advance fortnightly determination, rather than daily, is to allow importers a degree of assurance on the duty and GST payable on imported consignments and guard against adverse fluctuations in rates. This process was created in consultation with industry.

The rate used when Customs makes an assessment is that for the day the goods arrive into New Zealand not the day the order was paid for.

What is the process for paying Customs’ charges?
Customs works with NZ Post at the International Mail Centre to identify goods imported by mail that require duty and/or GST to be paid. If you need to pay these charges, you will receive a letter from NZ Post advising what charges must be paid and directing you to make contact with Customs.

Your goods will be released as soon as you pay the charges. Payment can be made by cheque, credit card, internet banking, or at a Customs office. Note: Starting 1 January 2016, NZ Customs will stop taking payment through Diners and AMEX credit cards.

Customs cannot release the goods until the charges are paid.

For goods imported through a courier-type company, the company concerned will contact you direct if duty and/or GST are payable.

The seller has offered to declare a lower value of the goods so I don’t have to pay any Customs charges, what happens if I get caught?
If goods aren’t declared correctly, for example in an attempt to avoid paying duty and/or GST, Customs may seize the goods, and in some cases you could be prosecuted. Customs has the authority to amend the declared value of the goods if it has reason to believe it is incorrect.

What things can’t I bring into New Zealand?
There are many things which can’t be brought into New Zealand, or for which you need to first get a permit or consent to import them. This includes drugs and drug paraphernalia, weapons, and electronic dog collars. For more information refer to the Customs website.

What is a client code and why do I need one?
A client code is a unique number that identifies individual importers and exporters and is required as part of the import process for shipments valued at NZ$1,000 or more. To apply for a client code:

  • complete the Trade Single Window - Client Registration Application (NZCS 224) form
  • email or fax to Customs via the email or fax number provided on the Client code application form
  • include the correct proof of identity, for companies and charitable trusts – Certificate of Incorporation, for individuals – passport or driver's licence

If you think you may already have a client code, please get in touch with our National Contact Centre to confirm.

You can apply for a refund of duty and GST when:

  • duty is paid in error
  • a concession is later approved for the goods
  • there is a manufacturing fault
  • the goods were in a damaged or deteriorated condition prior to leaving Customs' control
  • the goods were destroyed, pillaged, or lost prior to leaving Customs' control.

Contact your local Customs office to apply for a refund, and make sure you have evidence to support your application. You cannot claim a refund if you change your mind and send the goods back. While the duty and GST may be refunded, the import entry transaction fee will not be refunded.


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