Online shopping

Before shopping online, be sure you think it through carefully and that you know all the possible pitfalls.

If you buy goods online and have them shipped or flown here, you will not have to pay GST, duty or fees to New Zealand Customs if the goods are valued $1000 or less, unless the goods are part of a large consignment. This does not apply to alcohol or tobacco products.

If you buy goods online valued over $1000 you might need to pay:

  • 15% GST on the Customs value of the item – including duties, shipping and insurance costs
  • duties on the Customs value of the item – (the type of item and where it comes from influence what duties you need to pay)
  • other fees, such as an import entry transaction fee (IETF) of $29.26 (incl GST) and a biosecurity levy of $26.45 (incl GST).

Our What’s My Duty? estimator can help you estimate the charges for commonly-imported items. If you’re a commercial importer, please contact us or see our content about commercial importing.

The Working Tariff Document of New Zealand lists the rate for every item you can import.

You may not be able to bring some items into the country, or you may need permission first.

Customs value of imported goods

The Customs value of an item may not be the same as the price you see when you buy it. If you’re an online shopper, the Customs value includes:

  • what you paid for it, whether it is brand new or secondhand 
  • international shipping and insurance costs 
  • depreciation (this only applies to goods you previously owned overseas for some items).

If you’re importing any items for commercial or business reasons, the Customs value can be more complicated.

Customs rates of exchange

If you buy an item in any currency that isn’t New Zealand dollars (NZD), you must convert that amount into NZD to get the Customs value.

We use our own rates of exchange, which may be slightly different to those you see in other places. We set the rates every two weeks, and publish them 11 days in advance. We’ll use the rate that is current when your item arrives.

Check to see if your item is allowed in New Zealand

Some items aren’t allowed in NZ. Examples of prohibited items include:

  • some dog breeds
  • dog-tracking collars
  • objectionable material
  • equipment for using cannabis or methamphetamine.

Others need permission before you can bring them in. Examples of restricted items include:

  • tyres
  • weapons
  • diamonds
  • radioactive materials
  • plant and animal products, including food and accessories.

Take a look at the full list and details of prohibited and restricted imports.

Customs clearance

You may see that your item is waiting for Customs clearance.

This doesn’t mean that we are holding it. Another organisation we’ve licensed will be holding it instead. These organisations include Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ Post, airlines and transport/freight companies.

The organisation holding your item is responsible for contacting you when it arrives in NZ. They will tell you whether you:

  • need to pay GST and Customs duties on the item, or
  • need to arrange clearance, or
  • need to give them more information.

Note: We don’t hold your item when it arrives in NZ. We can’t notify you when it arrives, and we can’t locate it for you. That is up to the company who sent/transported the item for you.

If the company transporting your item doesn’t arrange import entry documentation with us, please contact us – we can then tell you what you must do. You should contact your nearest Customs Office – it doesn’t matter where the goods arrived in NZ.  

Return your item

If you return an item to the supplier and they give you a free replacement, you don’t need to pay duty and GST on the replacement. You will need to provide proof it’s a replacement, such as emails agreeing to replacement or evidence you returned the original item (eg shipping documents).

You can ask for a refund – called a drawback – on GST or duties you paid on an item if:

  • you didn’t need to pay duty
  • your item is faulty
  • your item was damaged or deteriorated before it left our control
  • your item was destroyed, stolen or lost before it left our control
  • we approve a concession on your item after you have paid GST and duties (online shopping doesn’t qualify for concessions).

To discuss a refund on duty or GST, contact your nearest Customs office.

False or incomplete declarations

You are legally liable for the information on Customs declarations being correct.

All declarations need to show:

  • a description of the item
  • how much you paid for it
  • whether it’s a gift, a commercial item or a personal item.

Some websites will offer to give an incorrect cost for your item on the Customs declaration, so you can avoid paying GST and/or duty.

Your item could be delayed and investigated if the sender:

  • gives incorrect information
  • doesn’t make a declaration.

In some cases, we will seize your item, and you will have to pay extra charges. You may also face criminal charges for knowingly making a false declaration to us.