What are Customs?

Understanding customs and some tips for properly filling out customs forms

Customs are a huge part of understanding the basics of international shipping. In a nutshell, customs are taxes on any international shipments. The customs forms you’ll need to fill out depends on the country that you’re shipping to, and whether the purpose of your shipment is business or personal.

Where Can I Find Customs Forms?

If you use shipping software to buy postage, it will most likely help you generate a customs form for your international shipments. However, for your reference, here are some links to grab customs forms for all four major international shipping carriers (USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL):

Some Tips for Filling Out Customs Forms

  • Represent the contents of your package truthfully—it’s the law! If it’s a gift, call it a gift. If it’s merchandise, call it merchandise.
  • Declare the correct value of the item so your recipient pays the correct amount in fees. If you don’t declare the proper value of your items, your shipment will be hit with duties and tax disputes.
    • Heads up: items with high value go through more stringent checks. Therefore, always make sure to choose the proper packing material that makes it easy to unpack and repack your shipment.
  • Fill out the form COMPLETELY. Double-check that you included the names and addresses of both the shipper and seller, an accurate description of the items, exact purchase prices for the items, total weight of the package, and the right country of origin.
    • You may come across a field called “Harmonization Code.” This is not required, and it’s only helpful for non-English speaking countries.

Don’t Forget the Commercial Invoice!

In addition to customs forms, a commercial invoice must accompany all international shipments for any products you’ve sold. A commercial invoice is a bill of sale between the buyer and seller. Commercial invoices are used to determine how products are classified, control what is imported, and calculate duties. Your shipment may be delayed, returned, or face extra fees if you don’t include this invoice. Don’t make that mistake!

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