If you have lived overseas for more than a year, you can take advantage of the duty and GST free threshold for personal belongings (excluding but not limited to such things as motor vehicles and motor cycles) that you have owned for at least the previous 12 months. However, you had better be on top of all the customs, shipping line and quarantine requirements or you could be facing thousands of dollars in storage or detention fees in Australia, as well as cleaning and/or disposal charges.
It is a common story: expat Aussies coming home, facing an unwelcome cost for thousands of dollars.
To save on unnecessary charges, you would be best encouraged to have made all the arrangements to process your goods – as the shipment is leaving the foreign port – so that the personal effects can be collected from the wharf and taken to the DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) depot in Australia upon its arrival.
The clock starts ticking as soon as your goods land at the port in Australia, the wharf wants you to have the container off their site within three days of the vessel arriving, the shipping line wants their container returned to the port within seven days from when the container is made available at the port, otherwise they will charge you detention, which is effectively a penalty for not having the container back at the port for the shipping company to be able to re-use that same container in transporting other goods out of Australia.
Lastly, Customs on most occasions will x-ray the container once it has arrived in Australia, and this delay will directly affect the potential wharf and shipping company storage and detention.
There are at least three factors to be concerned with; each factor has a monetary concern, the shipping line will charge you rent, the wharf will charge you storage and if Customs wish to x-ray the container due to a late clearance, your “free days” are being lost quickly and costs will compound dramatically.
The average storage fee is $150 for the fourth day at the wharf, the average rent on the container is around $100 for every day after the seventh day and weekends are included.
The solution is to have all your paperwork completed as the goods leave the foreign port. Licensed customs brokers have direct computer links with Customs and DAFF and can generally have the paperwork processed within 24 hours. If you attempt to do it yourself, you will need to liaise with the shipping company, customs, DAFF, the trucking company , the DAFF depot – all in unison.
At Platinum we meet people who think that it would be unlucky to have their goods checked, but all sea freight personal effects which arrive in a full container will be unpacked and checked; we have come across instances where people bring their drums back to Australia with animal skins on, used lawn mowers, motor vehicles, food and swords; if the client had spoken to us before shipping the goods, we could have advised them of the potential issues, instead of attempting to re-write history.
If DAFF directs some items for further processing such as steam cleaning, vacuuming or destruction then the importer will be levied with these extra costs for cleaning or disposal.
For us to start the process, we need a completed B534 Customs Unaccompanied Personal Effects Statement with a photocopy of the photo page from the passport along with a detailed list of the items inside the container.
Using a customs broker this will all be organised for you for at a surprisingly low cost (~$385*).
*this fee does not include the standard charges that continue to apply to personal effects such as collecting the container from the wharf and taking it to the DAFF depot, unpacking the container, returning the container to the wharf, port charges and lastly the DAFF charges