New Zealand import taxes

New Zealand import taxes

Learn how the upcoming New Zealand law will affect import taxes and your business.


New Zealand has passed new legislation that will impact overseas businesses selling goods directly to New Zealand consumers. This new law goes into effect on December 1st, 2019 and is similar to the low-value goods law enacted by Australia in 2018.

Annual threshold NZ$60.000

Overseas businesses, marketplaces, and redeliverers, who supply or are likely to supply more than NZ$60,000 in low-value goods and services directly to New Zealand customers within a 12-month period, will be required to collect and remit GST (Goods and Services Tax) directly to New Zealand. GST is a consumption tax that New Zealand applies to most goods imported into its country.

The following should be considered to determine if you’re over the NZ$60,000 threshold:

When determining if you meet the threshold, do not include supplies sold to New Zealand businesses or goods that are each valued over NZ$1,000.


Before and after December 1st, 2019

Prior to December 1st, 2019, New Zealand customs collects duty and tax at the border when the amount of duty and tax due on the shipment is greater than NZ$60. When New Zealand collects duty and taxes at the border, they also assess an import transaction fee and MPI levy, which equals a combined amount of NZ$55.71 in addition to the duties and taxes. This gets expensive for an online shopper and is part of an archaic system designed before cross-border ecommerce was relevant. A change was needed.

After December 1st, 2019, New Zealand customs will collect duty, an import transaction fee, and MPI levy at the border on shipments valued over NZ$1,000. This is good news for the ecommerce world, because it effectively increases the number of shipments that will enter New Zealand duty-free. However, things get a little more complicated with GST.

If your business is below the NZ$60,000 threshold, then you do not need to do anything. Duty, GST, and fees will be collected at the border on shipments over NZ$1,000 or for any shipments with alcohol and tobacco of any value. For most merchants, this will actually result in an increased number of shipments that will clear duty and tax-free.

If your business exceeds the NZ$60,000 threshold, then you will be required to register for, collect, and remit GST directly to New Zealand on all low-value goods. Duty and GST on high-value goods will be collected at the border or, for simplicity and if you meet certain requirements, you may elect to collect and remit GST on all goods (low and high value). This may seem a little confusing, so keep reading and we’ll explain this in more detail.

The receipt supplied to your New Zealand customers will also need to meet certain requirements (also explained later).


How to register for New Zealand GST

Registration for New Zealand GST is a simple process that can be completed online. The registration must be completed by the person responsible for filing the GST returns. It is a three-step process with the following instructions provided by the New Zealand Inland Revenue website.

  1. Complete the registration at ird.govt.nz/myir.
  2. Call New Zealand Inland Revenue at +64 4 890 3056 to activate your account.
  3. Set up a password. After your account is activated, you will receive an email with the information required to set up your password. This must be completed within 30 minutes.

How to calculate and collect GST on your orders

If you’ve registered for GST, there are a couple of options for how you can determine the amount of GST to collect at checkout. GST is 15% and applied to the product value, shipping, and insurance costs.

  1. Collect GST only on low-value goods and allow GST on high-value goods to be collected at the border.

    For an order with a set of golf clubs worth NZ $1,200 and golf shoes worth NZ $500, you would only collect GST for the golf shoes and any shipping costs associated with the golf shoes. The GST for the golf clubs would be assessed at the border.

  2. Collect GST on all goods (both high and low-value goods).

    You would collect GST for both the golf shoes and golf clubs, along with the GST associated with the shipping cost on the order.

The first option is much more complicated and not recommended for most ecommerce merchants. When a shipment is a mix of low-value and high-value goods, it would require that you only collect and remit GST on the low-value goods. Since GST is applied to the shipping costs, you would need to use a reasonable apportionment method to collect and remit GST on the portion of shipping costs applied to low-value goods.

This process would be messy and prone to problems for most merchants, but if you feel this method is best for your business, then the New Zealand website provides more information. They have also created a helpful video that walks through many questions and scenarios regarding mixed shipments.

Collecting GST at checkout on all goods will be the most reasonable method for most ecommerce merchants. This will allow for a more straightforward calculation that will be easier to understand for both the merchant and consumer. To calculate the amount of GST to collect, apply 15% to the selling price of the goods and any shipping, insurance, and service costs.

When selling to GST-registered businesses in New Zealand, you will not be required to collect GST on the order if the business is registered for GST and the goods are for business use. If the goods are not for business use, then GST should be charged. If you incorrectly charge GST on a business-to-business order, you can either:

If you choose to refund the GST to the purchaser, be sure to withhold this amount from the GST you remit at the end of the quarter.

You may choose (for simplicity’s sake) to intentionally collect GST on all orders to New Zealand, including sales to GST-registered businesses. This would apply if you primarily sell goods to consumers and don’t want to differentiate between businesses and consumers. If you choose this route, you must supply your customer with a full-tax-invoice, which is discussed in more detail later in this article, or be willing to issue a refund after the sale to GST-registered businesses.

Whatever method you use to collect GST, make sure you store the data appropriately so you remit the proper amount of GST to New Zealand.


How to fulfill your order and provide a proper receipt to your customer

GST-registered businesses will have some additional documentation that must be supplied with the shipment as well as a receipt/invoice that must be sent directly to the purchaser.

Shipment documentation

When a package is entering New Zealand, customs officials will need to clearly understand which items GST has already been collected on. These details can be communicated in the comments section of the commercial invoice and/or by supplying a copy of the customer receipt with details that GST has already been collected.

If you choose to only collect GST on low-value goods, then the information must be itemized so the customs officials know to collect GST on high-value goods at the border. If no information is provided on the invoice, customs officials will default to collecting GST on all products when the combined value is over $1,000 NZD, which may result in double taxation.

The simplest solution will be to apply GST to all goods and include a statement in the comments section of the commercial invoice to notify your transportation company and New Zealand customs that GST has already been collected on this shipment. An example statement could be: “GST has been collected at the point of sale for all items in this consignment and will be remitted via GST # 123456789.”

IMPORTANT - You will not currently be able to add these documents/comments to a postal/mail shipment. Your customers will have to rely on the receipt you give them as proof of GST payment to avoid paying GST again on delivery. The good news is that these cases will be rare, because GST will only be collected upon delivery if the consignment is over NZ$1,000.

Customer receipt

If you are required to collect and remit GST, you will also be required to supply New Zealand customers with an appropriate receipt that notifies them of the GST applied to their order.

The receipt is sent to New Zealand consumers and must include:

Below are some example receipts provided by New Zealand Inland Revenue.


Full tax invoice

When GST is collected on low-value goods to a New Zealand business, you can choose to refund the New Zealand business for the GST amount collected or you can send them a full tax invoice.

The New Zealand business can use the tax invoice to claim a GST deduction on their GST return for orders valued less than NZ $1,000. Any orders with goods valued over NZ $1,000 to a GST-registered business will need to be issued a refund.

The full tax invoice must include:

Below are some example tax invoices provided by New Zealand Inland Revenue.


Combined invoice

As you may notice, the receipt and tax invoice are quite similar. You can choose to issue a single document that qualifies as both a receipt and a full tax invoice, as long as the document fulfills the requirement for both. This can simplify business processes and may be the preferred option for many businesses.


How to remit GST

Payment of GST can be handled electronically through the New Zealand Inland Revenue website. There are a number of different payment options available, and you will receive more details on how to pay GST after you register for your GST number, but the process is fairly straightforward.

You will be required to remit GST funds to New Zealand quarterly. The lone exception to this is the first period, which is a length of four months (December 1st, 2019 to March 31st, 2020). You will have until the 28th of the month following the end of the quarter to remit GST except for Q1, which has a deadline of May 7th.

Here is a schedule:

Q1 - Payment due May 7th

Q2 - Payment due July 28th

Q3 - Payment due October 28th

Q4 - Payment due January 28th

Be sure to keep track of the GST collected throughout the quarter to save you time in calculating the amount to remit. If you are required to remit funds in New Zealand Dollars, you can use the exchange rate on the day you remit funds, the last day of the taxable period, or time of supply to your customers. In other words, whatever is most convenient for you.


Noncompliance

It may be tempting for some merchants that are over the NZ$60,000 threshold to want to avoid registering for GST.

WARNING - We highly recommend you comply with the new law. New Zealand will try to claw back on historical revenue and may be successful at accomplishing this in cooperation with the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, and other countries.

Below is information directly from the NZ government website on how they will handle non-compliance.

If a business does not want to work with us, New Zealand has agreements with other countries on:

  • Mutual cooperation
  • Information exchange
  • Assistance in tax matters

These agreements cover an extensive network of jurisdictions, including our major trading partners.

The agreements mean New Zealand can request other foreign tax authorities to provide information about foreign taxpayers, as well as share information with foreign tax authorities about foreign taxpayers that are under audit in New Zealand. Inland Revenue and Customs will also share information and work together to help identify instances of non-compliance.

When we detect someone has not registered for GST when they should be, we can:

  • Issue a default assessment of the GST liability
  • Register the debt with New Zealand courts
  • Register and pursue the debt in the courts of the country that the supplier is based using our international agreements.

New Zealand also has agreements with some foreign tax authorities allowing them to collect unpaid GST on New Zealand’s behalf.


Zonos recommends

Evaluate immediately if you are required to register for New Zealand GST.

If you are not required to register, there is nothing to do right now, but be sure to evaluate periodically in the future.

If you are required to register, then we recommend you keep it simple. You should be able to find ways to comply with the new law without major disruption to your current business processes.


Gratulacje! You are now an expert on New Zealand import taxes.

Next, you may want to dive into how Zonos can help, or learn about Australia’s law concerning low-value goods.