The most asked questions from customers about online shopping and duty.
I thought I could bring in up to $400 worth of goods tax-free?
There is a common misconception that items purchased 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 items that attract both duty and GST, such as clothing, shoes, and accessories. Customs charges may be payable when the value of these exceeds approximately NZ$225.
Will splitting my purchases keep the value below the amount where duty or GST are payable?
The value of an import is based on all items imported by a person or company at one time, and is not limited to a single transaction. If several items, purchased separately by the same person or company, arrive in New Zealand at the same time, the value may be combined which could result in charges becoming payable.
When don’t I pay Customs charges?
We do not collect the duty and/or GST on imports 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, it is calculated as a percentage of the value of the items. If the purchase was in a foreign currency then the Customs rates of exchange are used.
How is the GST calculated?
GST is calculated at 15% 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?
An Import Entry Transaction Fee (IETF) of NZ$29.26 (GST inclusive) is charged to risk assess and process imported goods. An MPI biosecurity system entry levy of $23.41 (GST inclusive) is also payable when an IETF is charged, making the total fees payable of $52.67 (GST inclusive).
Why is the Customs exchange rate different to what the banks have?
Customs determines the exchange rates fortnightly in advance, based on Westpac data. New rates are collected on the morning of the day they are determined and published 11 days before the effective date.
This advance fortnightly determination allows importers a degree of assurance on the duty and GST payable on imports and guards against adverse fluctuations in rates.
The rate we use to make an assessment is the rate for the day the goods arrive into NZ, not the day the goods were purchased.
What is the process for paying Customs’ charges?
We work 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.
Customs cannot release the goods until the charges are paid.
For goods imported through a courier 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, we 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 Prohibited and Restricted Items.
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 form NZCS 224: TSW Client Registration Application (DOC 534 KB)
- email or fax us 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.
Can I get a GST refund
Customs can only consider refunding GST where the “wrong goods” were sent or where the imported goods are “faulty”.
For example, if you order a size M red shirt, and you receive a size M red shirt but it does not fit, then Customs will only refund the duty paid if the garment is returned to the supplier. The GST portion will not be refunded because the garment is as specified.
If, however, you order a size M “red” shirt and receive a size M “brown” shirt, then it is not as specified, and a refund will be considered if the shirt is returned to the supplier.
You will be required to provide all the relevant documents and correspondence to verify your claim.
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.