A guide for British businesses interested in selling goods and services in Australia.
Visit great.gov.uk for guidance on how to research overseas markets as well as a range of other important issues for exporters.
Australia in world business rankings
Doing business in Australia
Australia is the 13th largest economy in the world. With 26 years of economic growth, it’s a prosperous market with high disposable income per head.
If your product or service is successful in the UK, there’s a good chance of success in Australia. However, even though the markets are very similar, there are differences to take into consideration. For example, you must consider how you adequately service your customers thousands of miles away.
Benefits for UK businesses exporting to Australia
Australia is similar to the UK because of the common language and similarities in business and legal practices such as intellectual property (IP) protection.
It is, therefore, a good place to test a new market for a product, especially as the country has 1.2 million Britons who are permanent residents. Australia welcomed over 700,000 UK visitors in 2016 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Challenges and overseas business risk in Australia
Australia has strict biosecurity regulations for imports of certain products and packaging.
The sheer size of Australia and shipping distance to market leads to some unique challenges. These include:
- visiting Australia, which takes about 24 hours from the UK by plane
- time to ship or send products to market
- increased costs to get your products to market, due to the distance
- the time difference (+7 to 11 hours ahead of the UK) which can make business calls difficult
- the vast distances between states and cities in country
Read the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Overseas Business Risk report for Australia.
Top goods and services imports into Australia
UN Comtrade ranks Australia’s top goods imports from the rest of the world during 2016 as:
- machinery, including boilers
- vehicles (other than railway or tramway vehicles)
- electrical and electronic equipment
- distillation products and mineral fuels, including oil
- optical, technical, photographic and medical apparatus
- gems and precious metals
- plastics and plastic products
- furniture, lighting, sign, and prefabricated buildings
- iron or steel products
UN Comtrade ranks Australia’s top services imports from the rest of the world during 2015 as:
- other business services, such as consultancy, technical services and research and development (R&D)
- royalties and licence fees
- financial services
- personal, cultural, and recreational services
- government services
- insurance services
UK exports to Australia
Australia was the UK’s 16th largest export market in 2015, accounting for 1.6% of total UK exports. UK exports comprised:
- £4.1 billion (47.7%) goods
- £4.5 billion (52.3%) services
Researching the Australian market
Market research and planning are essential before starting to sell your products and services in Australia. It will help prevent costly mistakes and maximise the potential for profits.
There are some regulatory differences between the Australian states and territories. Australia’s 4 major cities cover around half its population, so can be prioritised when doing market research for your product or service. A combination of desk research and visits to the market will help you determine whether:
- there is a market for your product or service
- your pricing is competitive
- you need to localise your product
- you need to adapt your business model
- you have the resources in place to tackle a market this size
Find out more about researching an overseas market.
Visit the Department for International Trade’s (DIT) events portal to find upcoming events.
DIT’s trade specialists can help you commission services from local experts in Australia. This includes:
- country and sector advice
- local market research
- support during overseas visits
- identification of possible business partners
- preparation for exhibitions and events
Opportunities for UK businesses in Australia
DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Find export opportunities in Australia.
Set up a trade profile on DIT’s Find a buyer service to connect with international buyers.
Government tenders in Australia
Visit AusTender for government procurement opportunities. You will need to set up a business in Australia or have a local business partner to successfully access opportunities to sell to the Australian government.
Find out more about government contracts and tenders in Australia.
Getting started in the Australian market
Once you’ve done some initial research you should create an export plan and identify your best route to market.
Consult local lawyers when you enter a new market to avoid costly mistakes and ensure you start out in the way that is best suited to your sector of activity.
Direct exports and sales in Australia
Selling directly to customers means you handle all the processes involved in marketing, selling, sending overseas and getting paid. Direct exports are possible if you’re selling online or responding to enquiries from Australian companies.
Selling in Australia through local agents, distributors or wholesalers
Distance and time zone issues may mean it’s more effective to use local representation.
A local point of contact is particularly important if you need to service customer queries and problems regarding your product or service. Options include using an agent, distributor or wholesaler.
DIT’s trade specialists can help you identify local representatives for your products in Australia.
Setting up a company or office in Australia
A business enterprise in Australia can operate as a:
- foreign branch
- joint venture
- sole trader
Business formation is most commonly done through registration as:
Taxation and legal obligations differ depending on which business structure you choose.
Find out more about setting up a business in Australia.
Online selling to Australia
A digital presence can help you gain new customers 24 hours a day, often at low cost.
Find out more about reaching new customers online.
Use the DIT’s selling online overseas tool to get exclusive deals for your business, negotiated by the UK government.
Find out how the DIT’s E-Exporting programme can help you export your products overseas.
You must not charge Value Added Tax (VAT) for online sales to Australia. You must fill out a customs declaration when you ship the products and keep proof of export.
Licensing or franchising in Australia
If you have a suitable product or service you can license them to be sold in Australia. It’s is a cheap way to enter the market as there are no set-up costs apart from the cost of a legal agreement.
You should undertake due diligence on licensees to ensure your intellectual property (IP) rights are protected.
Find out more about licensing IP.
The franchise industry is heavily regulated in Australia.
Visit the international section of the British Franchise Association for more information on franchising.
Getting finance to fulfil an export contract to Australia
To make it easier to fulfil an export contract and grow your business, schemes are available to UK companies selling products and services in Australia. Contact your bank or specialist financial organisation for assistance.
UK Export Finance (UKEF) has significant risk capacity to support exports to Australia.
Contact one of UKEF’s export finance managers for a free and impartial consultation. They can help check you are getting the appropriate financial support and, if not, explore how to bridge any gaps.
Getting paid in Australia
You may wish to talk to a specialist about finance, including how to get paid in Australia. This could be a bank, accountant or you can contact the DIT team in Australia who can help you find a financial adviser in Australia.
Your contract should specify the terms for payment. You need to use secure terms of payment in Australia through a letter of credit, cash, or partial payment in advance.
You should only use open account payment terms (delivery of goods or services before payment) when you have an established trading relationship.
Customers in Australia may require credit terms to buy your products and services.
Payment conditions must be factored into prices. For business-to-business transactions these can range from immediate payments on receipt of goods (often with a negotiated small discount) to a negotiated 60-day payment.
Payment risks in Australia
UKEF helps UK companies get paid by insuring against buyer default.
Currency risks when exporting to Australia
If you have not fixed your exchange rate you have not fixed your price.
You should consider whether the best option for you is to agree terms in sterling or Australian dollars in any contract. You should also consider getting expert financial advice on exchange rates (sometimes called FX).
Transferring money from Australia
Capital can be moved in and out of Australia without any restrictions in principle.
Currency transfers of A$10,000 or more must be reported to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).
Legal considerations of doing business in Australia
The federal government of Australia legislates in areas such as trade and commerce, banking and taxation.
Find out more about Australian business regulation.
Contact the DIT team in Australia to help find tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements in Australia.
Controlled goods export licences for Australia
You must have a licence to supply any goods, software, technical information and technology to Australia which are on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.
There are a number of open licences available for exporting military and certain dual use controlled items to Australia and it’s a straightforward registration process. If you can’t use an open licence you’ll have to apply for a standard licence.
Some other products, including consumer items, may need additional certification or licensing.
Find out which products will need certification or licensing before they can be exported to Australia.
Import restrictions in Australia
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) maintains a list of prohibited or restricted goods for import.
Australia has very strict sanitary (animal-related) and phytosanitary (plant-related) restrictions for products that may contaminate its agricultural industry or environment.
Before entry into Australia import risk analysis (IRA) must be undertaken on:
- animals, their genetic material and animal products
- plants (including for potential weed assessment)
- biological control agents for control of pests
Some goods can be imported, but use might be restricted under state laws.
Australia applies its rights under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to apply a quota on imports of cheese and curd.
Quarantine regulations in Australia
Australia’s biosecurity measures aim to prevent disease and pests entering the country through a strict inspection or treatment regime.
Check whether your goods are subject to biosecurity import conditions in Australia and its external territories, including Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
There’s very little recourse if your shipment encounters quarantine issues at Australian customs.
Quarantine measures could affect a number of products including:
- farming, mining and construction machinery
- packaging goods
All required documents must accompany your shipment to reduce the likelihood of inspection.
Find out more about Australian quarantine requirements.
Consumer protection law in Australia
If you’re selling to consumers you must comply with Australia’s consumer protection law which guarantees consumer rights when buying goods and services.
Consumer rights across Australia can be different as legislation is set at federal, state and territory level. You must check with fair trading offices in Australian states to see if you’re complying with legislation.
Professional indemnity insurance for doing business in Australia
If you provide a service and want to protect yourself against negligence claims from clients or third parties, you may wish to consider taking out professional indemnity insurance.
Standards and technical regulations in Australia
Australia has taken on international standards where possible. However, there are Australian standards with no international equivalent which may require your product to be modified, or impact how your product enters the market. Standards Australia has responsibility for Australian standards.
Check Australia’s voluntary standards, mandatory standards and codes of practice to make sure you’re meeting legal requirements for products.
Both mandatory and voluntary ‘conformity marks’ are in use in Australia. They indicate if a product, process or service fulfils specified legal requirements in Australia
You may need to comply with environmental standards in Australia which can be affected by both federal and state legislation.
Product Safety Australia provides an overview of Australia’s product safety law and mandatory standards.
If you don’t comply with mandatory standards, you risk action under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
All units of measurement must be expressed in the metric system. All pre-packaged goods must comply with Australia’s trade measurement laws.
Local state or territory regulations can affect product safety requirements.
Product liability insurance for doing business in Australia
You should consider taking out product liability insurance if you manufacture or supply a product.
Packaging regulation in Australia
Packaging must meet Australian consumer health and environmental legislation. Imports of some consumer goods must meet state government packaging requirements.
Quarantine regulations require:
- a certificate of fumigation to accompany packaging and pallets
- that packaging made of wood or plant matter is subject to phytosanitary controls
Find out more about regulations for wood packaging.
Labelling your products for Australia
Specific labelling requirements apply to:
- chemical products
- electronic goods
- most therapeutic products
All labelling must use the metric system. ‘Net’ must be used to express mass.
A ‘Made in’ mark of origin label is required by Australian Customs.
Read Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) guidance for food labelling.
Mandatory changes to country of origin food labelling take effect on 1 July 2018.
Protecting your intellectual property (IP) in Australia
Find out about Australia’s IP laws.
Read the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) guidance on exporting your IP.
Taxation in Australia
The UK and Australia have signed a double taxation agreement.
This agreement should, in most cases, prevent any double tax liability from UK and Australian authorities over the same income. If you, or your UK company, earn money from your exports that’s been taxed in Australia it shouldn’t be taxed again in the UK.
UK companies operating in Australia will be subject to local taxation requirements.
Find out more about taxation in Australia.
Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods exported to Australia
You can zero-rate the sale of goods exported to Australia. You must get evidence that the goods were exported and keep it as part of your records.
Find more information on VAT in non-EU markets.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Australia
Australia’s Goods and Services Tax is a 10% tax on the sale of most goods and services in Australia.
Excise duty in Australia
You should check you’ve paid excise duty on any alcohol, fuel, tobacco or other excise equivalent products you send to Australia.
Find out more about excise duty and duty drawback outside the EU.
Find out more about excise duty in Australia.
Company and corporate tax in Australia
The company tax rate for an Australian resident company is currently 30% of its taxable income, or 28.5% for SMEs for income years commencing on, or after, 1 July 2015.
Read more about corporate tax in Australia.
Customs and documentation in Australia
Complying with HMRC regulations to export to Australia
You must make export declarations to HMRC through the National Export System (NES) to export your goods to Australia.
Find out how to declare your exports to Australia through the NES.
You must classify your goods as part of the declaration, including a commodity code and a Customs Procedure Code (CPC).
Find commodity codes and other measures applying to exports in the UK Trade Tariff.
Contact HMRC’s Tariff Classification Service for more help on tariffs.
You must declare any goods that you take with you in your baggage to sell outside the EU.
Temporary export of goods to Australia
You can use an ATA (temporary admission) Carnet to simplify the customs procedures needed to temporarily take goods into Australia. Temporary exports mean you can take your products into another country under strict time limits, usually as commercial samples or for display at exhibitions.
You’ll need a licence to temporarily take any goods on the UK export controls lists to Australia. This includes goods for:
- use in repair or maintenance
Check if you can use an Open Licence for your temporary export.
If not, use the SPIRE system to apply for a temporary export licence.
If the items aren’t being returned to the UK, you’ll need a permanent export licence.
Find out about temporary importation rules into Australia.
Customs in Australia
The DIBP regulates all goods imported into Australia. Import requirements include:
- import declarations and documents
- payment of relevant duties and taxes
Imports of goods valued at A$1,000 or less (excluding excise goods) are not liable for duty and taxes, but must have a self-assessed clearance (SAC) declaration. The SAC is normally the responsibility of a freight forwarder.
The EU’s Market Access Database provides information on import conditions into Australia, including:
- customs clearance formalities and documentation
- import tariffs
- sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions
Documentation in Australia
Import documents required include a:
- bill of lading / air waybill
- commercial invoice
- fumigation certificate (if applicable)
- manufacturing declaration (if applicable)
- packing declaration form
- packing list permits and licences for regulated products
Help with shipping your goods to Australia
If you’re not knowledgeable about international shipping procedures you can use a freight forwarder to move your goods. A forwarder will have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs and banking practices in Australia.
Posting goods to Australia
Find out about sending goods by post to Australia from the Royal Mail.
Shipping dangerous goods to Australia
Special rules apply if you’re shipping dangerous goods to Australia.
Terms of delivery to Australia
You must have a clear written contract to minimise the risk of misunderstanding in international commercial transactions.
Incoterms are a series of widely used commercial terms for international trade in goods, which set out:
- where the goods are being delivered
- who is responsible for each stage of the journey, including customs clearance
- what insurance is required
- who pays for each cost
Find out more about agreements on terms of delivery using Incoterms.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) publishes the Incoterms Rules.
Incoterms do not cover contracts for delivery of services.
Contracts for international delivery of services should focus on desired outcomes - ie what the service should achieve. This should be part of a service level agreement in your contract.
Reporting a trade barrier in Australia
Regulatory, tariff or technical barriers in an overseas market can make imported goods and services less competitive than those produced locally.
Language and culture in Australia
Australians are informal in their business interactions. First-name terms tend to be the norm in most business situations. Directness and plain speaking are valued.
Entry requirements for Australia
You must have a valid passport and visa.
UK citizens can get an eVisitor visa direct from the Australian DIBP, or an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for a service fee of AU$20.
Find out more about the types of visa available from the DIBP.
Travel advice for Australia
If you’re travelling to Australia for business, check the FCO’s travel advice first.
DIT contacts for Australia
Contact a local DIT trade adviser in the UK if you are interested in finding out more about doing business in Australia.
Contact the DIT team in Australia for more tailored information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Australia.