Navigating your goods through customs: Customs broker launches program for young entrepreneurs

Customs broker Peter McRae has seen the pitfalls for young entrepreneurs who excitedly import goods into Australia only to be tripped up by unexpected charges.


He remembers an entrepreneur who wanted to bring inflatable jumping castles into Australia.


Unfortunately, the entrepreneur didn’t realise there were port charges associated with the shipment of 11 cubic metres of castles.


And at $150 per cubic metre, that ended up being a sizeable charge to pay to get their hands on their goods.


“They weren’t too happy they had to pay,” McRae, the founder of Platinum Freight Management, says.


“The comment we always get is ‘why didn’t anyone tell us’.”


With many young entrepreneurs starting out in business by importing products like leather goods, clothes, jewellery, or home appliances and then selling them online or at markets, McRae says they need to be aware of the costs associated with bringing goods into the country.


He says there could be port or airline terminal fees, quarantine inspection fees, storage fees, goods and services tax charges or even fumigation fees.


It’s a trap that could see the cost of a project blow out and importers have to reconsider what they want to charge customers.


“They don’t have the full picture,” McRae says, noting that overseas suppliers may tell importers how much it’ll cost to send goods to Australia, but may not tell, or know about, the fees for bringing them into Australia.


McRae is aiming to help young entrepreneurs aged under 25 navigate their goods into the country with a program to provide free customs brokering services for their first three shipments.


It usually costs $172 for air freight clearances, $221 for less than a container in sea freight or $236 for a full container, all subject to GST.


“We’ve decided to do what we can to help young entrepreneurs who are importing goods into Australia get their fledgling businesses off the ground,” McRae says.


To take part in the program young business owners need to be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and be the sole director or joint owner.


McRae says issues importers need to be aware of include:


  • Know the whole picture – what are the cost of goods and the cost of bringing them into Australia
  • Documentation – ensure you’ve got a commercial invoice that says what you bought, packing documentation, and a bill of loading
  • Consider becoming a sole distributor – if you’re the only importer of a particular product, try and secure a sole distributor deal to lock up the market
  • Inspect the goods at the supplier’s factory to ensure quality.


More information about importing goods into Australia and the program can be found here.


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