Exporting to Australia – everything you need to know

There are more than 1,000 British companies operating in Australia, including big names like BP, HSBC, Virgin, British Airways and BT, as well as hundreds more SMEs.

There are 1.2 million Britons currently residing full time in Australia – that’s almost 2% of the population, with a further 500,000 visiting each year. So it’s clear to see there are ties between the two countries to be exploited.

If you’re thinking of doing business down under, here’s everything you need to know about exporting to Australia…

Australia is on the crest of an economic wave of 24 years uninterrupted economic growth and its GDP per capita at current exchange rates put Australian citizens among the world’s fifth wealthiest.

And given the ties between the UK and Australia, it’s fair to assume that exporting to Australia will be straightforward and beneficial to your business, but you should always check out the plus and minus points before tying yourself into any venture.

The pros and cons of exporting to Australia

The benefits for British businesses exporting to Australia are:

  • the strong Australian dollar makes British products very affordable
  • proximity to Asia Pacific economies
  • familiar products and service providers
  • common language and similar culture
  • similar business and legal practices
  • similar technical standards

And the strengths of the Australian market include:

  • an extended period of strong economic growth
  • strong business and consumer base
  • strong technology sector
  • similar language, culture and business practices
  • high personal wealth
  • strong intellectual property (IP) protection

On the downside, challenges to exporting to Australia include:

  • Australia is approximately 24 hours away from the UK by plane
  • Australia covers 3 time zones and is as big as the USA
  • distances between capital cities are vast, eg Perth is nearly 3,300 kilometres from Sydney
  • Australia is between 8 and 11 hours ahead of UK time
  • weather extremes in winter and summer can have an impact on businesses
  • doing business in Australia can be expensive due to the current exchange rate between the 2 countries.

And don’t forget, if you’re going to do business in Australia, you’ll need a reliable and cost effective conference call provider – here’s how to set up a conference call between the UK and Australia.

Trading with Australia

Australia is the UK’s 12th largest export market, ahead of  Canada and India, and every day around 1,000 UK companies do business there. And business between the two countries is on the rise – in 2013, the value of the UK’s total goods and service exports to Australia hit the £10 billion mark, up almost two-thirds (63%) on 2007.

The top 10 exports from the UK to Australia

  1. Road vehicles
  2. Medicines and pharmaceuticals
  3. General industrial machinery
  4. Specialised machinery
  5. Professional and scientific instruments and apparatus
  6. Power generating machinery and equipment
  7. Electrical machinery and appliances
  8. Beverages
  9. Apparel and clothing accessories
  10. Metal manufactures

Tax and customs in Australia


When doing business down under, there are three types of tax to take into consideration:

  • Goods and services tax (GST) – this is a 10% tax levied on the sale of most goods and services in Australia, and businesses registered for GST usually include it in the price of sales (unlike in the US, where it is added on to the advertised price)
  • Company tax – a resident company in Australia is currently 30% of its taxable income, but this is set to be reduced to 28.5% for SMEs with annual turnover less than $2 million (AUS) following the 2015 budget. Taxable income is assessed on the basis of assessable business income less allowable business deductions.
  • Individual income tax – residents generally pay income tax on income and capital gains earned in Australia and around the world (with some exceptions), but there is a double taxation agreement in place that prevents both the Australian and UK  government taxing you on the same income. Different types of individual income can include:
    • salary and wages
    • pensions
    • interest
    • royalties
    • partnership and trust distributions
    • company dividends

Non-residents are subject to higher tax on income made in Australia and, in many cases, no personal allowance is offered and tax is levied from the first dollar earned.


The Australian Customs Service regulates all goods imported into the country. It imposes some very stringent rules on what can and can’t enter the country, and is especially strict on anything that could affect the very delicately balanced eco-system.

Customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) may apply to goods entering Australia, but tax rates depend upon factors such as the type of goods and the country of origin. All imported goods must be cleared with customs whether they are imported by air, sea or post.

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