Understanding New Zealand’s customs regulations to ensure business success

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As of June 2022, the New Zealand government recorded an export value of NZ$6.4 billion worth of goods, with meat being the largest contributor, followed by milk powder, butter and cheese. The country also enjoyed import value of goods worth NZ$7.1 billion, with petroleum and machinery being its two largest contributors. 

Before importing into or exporting from New Zealand, businesses should be updated on the latest customs regulations. Familiarising yourself with the customs rules will reduce the chances of being penalised and having your shipment delayed. Read on to learn about New Zealand’s customs regulations and tips you can follow when exporting from the country.

Import laws in New Zealand

Perhaps you’re a brick-and-mortar owner catering to the local market or tourists, or an e-commerce business managing and overlooking the quality of inventory goods in New Zealand before shipping them out to your overseas customers. In both instances, you’d need to import goods into the country, which means paying attention to the laws is necessary.

1. Prohibited and restricted goods

You have to make sure that your products are neither prohibited nor pose a biosecurity risk as these items are not allowed for import. If your products fall under the restricted category, you may need to provide licences and permits at the New Zealand customs to be permitted in the country.

Some examples of prohibited items include:

  • Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish

  • Chewable tobacco products

  • Certain dog breeds, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and Japanese Tosa

Some examples of restricted items include:

  • Controlled drugs

  • Dog-tracking devices

  • Explosives, including fireworks

All food products need to meet food safety and labelling requirements as well. Certain goods may have to be cleaned or treated to ensure no unwanted pests or diseases are brought into the country. There is also a wide range of items which the New Zealand customs require approval through biosecurity and food security clearances. 

2. Import declaration

Importers bringing in goods valued over NZ$1,000 must provide an import declaration, which has to be entered electronically. As such, you will need to register for the Trade Single Window (TSW). The TSW is a platform that allows importers to submit import information (known as ‘lodgements’) and receive responses from border agencies. You will also need a client code to import goods worth over NZ$1,000, which you can easily apply for via the NZCS Form 224. You will also need a supplier code.

Goods valued lesser than the threshold stated above are typically screened and pass through appropriate customs actions and released, unless they attract charges over NZ$60. Should your goods attract charges of more than NZ$60, they will be kept aside to determine the value. You will be contacted to arrange for clearance so that the goods can be released.

Please note that for such goods, the customs officer will submit an electronic lodgement for you, which will take extra time.

All goods imported into New Zealand need to be declared no later than 20 days after it arrives. However, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) recommends all declarations be lodged in advance.

3. Import tax in New Zealand

Goods (including secondhand items) worth over NZ$1,000 are subject to import duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) at the New Zealand customs. However, if your shipment includes alcohol or tobacco, while valued below the de minimis rate, you are required to pay both the import duty and GST.

The import duty you need to pay for customs clearance will depend on the value of your goods, the type of item you are shipping, the country it was manufactured in and sent from, the duty rate against the tariff schedule and any other additional customs concessions. 

GST is charged at 15% on the value of goods entering New Zealand. Please note that if you’re shipping from overseas suppliers, they may charge GST even if your shipment is worth below the threshold value.

Do note that you may enjoy preferential rates due to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), not just when importing goods but also exporting to designated countries.

Export laws in New Zealand

1. Prohibited and restricted goods

Similar to imported goods, there are items prohibited or restricted for exportation, according to New Zealand’s export laws. Prohibited goods for export are similar to those not allowed entry to the country.

For restricted goods, exporters are required to register with certain authorities. These include meat, live animals, birds and other wildlife, dairy products and controlled drugs. More information about these can be retrieved from the New Zealand customs website. 

2. Export declaration

Exporters have to declare their goods by lodging documentation for export entry clearance with customs. This must be done within 48 hours before goods are loaded for export. An export certificate may be required depending on the importing country and type of goods. 

Export entries provide you with details on your export, such as how your items are classified. These are mandatory if:

  • The free on board (FOB) value of your exported goods is above NZ$1,000

  • You are claiming back a refund on the duty paid. 

New Zealand exporters are also required to have a client code to clear shipments valued above the de minimis rate.

3. Export tax in New Zealand

Although taxes are not levied on exports, you must pay export entry transaction fees or outward cargo transaction fees. These are divided into two categories each.

If you’re exporting under the Secure Exports Scheme (SES), the fee amounts to NZ$3.27, including GST. Otherwise, you’re required to pay NZ$6.82. All outgoing cargo transaction fees exported by air and sea are pegged at NZ$14.35 and NZ$18.58 respectively. These must come with the Electronic Cargo Information (ECI), one of two customs clearance documents New Zealand exporters need to provide at customs, the other the export entry.

Tips to export from New Zealand

Expanding your business and exporting to another country can seem challenging. To help you get started and maximise your chances of building a successful export business in New Zealand, we have prepared the following tips:

1. Plan export strategy

Have clear objectives about what you can achieve within your resources. Pay attention to customs regulations locally, and in the countries you want to ship to, as well as any legal requirements. 

2. Ship to countries New Zealand has FTAs with

If you want to reduce shipping costs, one of the ways to trade with countries that have eliminated taxes and duties due to FTAs. New Zealand has 13 trade agreements with several countries.

3. Choose a reliable international logistics company

Understanding a country’s customs regulations can be complicated, especially if you are new to international trading. Partnering with a third-party courier company like DHL Express can ensure you a smooth customs clearance process. 

DHL Express is a pioneer in the logistics industry that specialises in international express shipping. Our team of experts are well-equipped with the knowledge of the customs clearance processes of various countries and can assist you with all your cross-border issues. Create a DHL Express account now and you do not have to worry about the complications of customs.