Customs is usually the agency that levies duties or taxes and oversees the flow of goods in and out of a country. Importantly, customs and duties charges are applied once a product reaches its destination country. Duties are taxes levied by governments on the value of item as well as its freight and insurance costs. This is not to be confused with taxes, which are levied by individual states or jurisdictions.
Customs, duties and taxes should be showed to the customer in their native or preferred language during their checkout process on your eCommerce website. This will prevent price surprise, confusion and unhappy customers. The same goes for an estimated cost of international eCommerce shipping. An integrated international eCommerce system or platform can automatically calculate these costs at the time of checkout both to inform customers as well as streamline your international pricing strategy.
Standard Customs Documentation for Global eCommerce Shipping
There are three forms that most enterprise eCommerce businesses seeking to expand shipping globally will commonly see. While the necessary forms vary from country to country and product to product, these are forms that most shipments require regardless.
- Commercial Invoice: This document is critical to eCommerce companies catering to international customers. This is prepared by the exporter (read: your eCommerce business) and is required for the foreign purchaser to show ownership.
- Certificate of Origin: This is simply a document declaring where the products you're shipping were manufactured.
- Electronic Export Information (EEI): This document might be required by a destination country for products, items or shipments valued at more than $2,500.
HTS: Harmonized Tariff Schedules for International eCommerce Shipping
Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) is a numerical language established by the international World Customs Organization in order to standardize global trade. HS is an essential element in the HTS system utilized by the U.S. International Trade Commission as well as the U.S. Export Classification System. These codes indicate the products imported and exported from countries around the globe. Products range from natural resources such as oil to complicated products such as advanced manufacturing technology. With over 17,000 10 digit codes used to describe products, their materials and intended use, it is astronomically complicated to find the exact code for each product. Failure to find the exact code can result in shipping delays and large additional customs and duties fees or even a criminal investigation.
An integrated systems for product HTS classification is an incredible solution to this complicated process. This tariff integration for international eCommerce dynamically pulls data and translates it into HS codes, reducing the chance of human error. Additionally, the World Customs Organization regularly makes changes to HS classification codes. Failure to make the appropriate changes to your products coded numerical descriptors can result in transaction failures and AES (Automated Export System) filings. An integrated system applies any regulatory changes automatically to all of your products that are shipped internationally.
UPS Customs Forms and Guide for International Shipping
UPS is trusted company for sending items internationally. Additionally, their shipping API allows for numerous eCommerce shipping integrations. While UPS has some helpful online tools, such as the ability to save forms online for up to 90 days, an integrated solution for global shipping with UPS is recommended.UPS has a helpful how to guide for international customs and duties when using its services. You can download a PDF of their international shipping how to guide here.
Customs Resources for FedEx for Global eCommerce Shipping
FedEx is another major shipping company that many enterprise businesses trust for shipping their eCommerce goods globally. Similar to UPS, FedEx has a pretty intuitive API which allows for relatively simple international shipping integrations into your line of business software or eCommerce platform.
Duties and Customs For Shipping Internationally with DHL
DHL offers some really useful online tools for international shipping. Their landed cost calculator will show you taxes, customs duties and other important fees up front. Additionally, they offer a shipping comparison calculator and a product compliance tool. These are extremely important resources for small businesses, but are not scalable for larger, enterprise businesses. However, tools have APIs that can be integrated into your ERP and eCommerce platform systems to accomplish the same tasks on a much larger scale. You can read more about DHL and their international shipping tools and resources.
USPS Customs Forms for Shipping Globally
Fortunately, most USPS customs forms are fairly self-explanatory. This makes it easier to implement an efficient, automated global shipping process for your enterprise eCommerce business. Typically, information requested on the form includes weight, type of goods, and value.
This kind of data can be pulled dynamically from your ERP system with a custom integration or an eCommerce platform that provides such an option. Implementing an automated strategy takes the inherent headache out of catering to international consumers.
The Three Types of USPS Customs Declaration Forms for International eCommerce:
- PS Form 2976: CN22-
- Commonly used for First Class and Priority International Mail valued at under $400. (Flat rate envelopes and small boxes)
- PS Form 2976-A & Dispatch Note: CP72-
- Typically used for International Express and Priority mail packages valued at over $400. (Does not include flat rate small boxes and envelopes)
- Commercial Invoice PS Form: 6182-
- This form is used for Global Express Guaranteed Mail valued at less than $2,499.
The Three Ways To Acquire Customs Forms for Global eCommerce Shipping:
Of the three ways to get USPS forms, two of the most commonly used methods are absolutely terrible for international eCommerce.
- Some companies actually pick up customs forms from the Post Office and fill them out manually. This is an expensive waste of company and employee time, not to mention the fact that it is inefficient and is ripe for human error.
- The second method, which entails completing customs forms on USPS.com, is only marginally better than the traditional paper form method. This still involves an inefficient process that wastes organizational time.
- The third and best method for using USPS customs forms in international shipping is an automated, integrated system. This allows you to dynamically pull data to an automatically generated customs form that can be printed upon completion. Clarity's eCommerce platform as well as the global shipping integrations we design for enterprise eCommerce clients use such a system.
Customs and Duties Integration for International eCommerce
While many small businesses can get away with manual customs and duties processes for now, this strategy will hinder their ability to grow. For medium to large enterprise eCommerce businesses with international clients, customs and duties integration are a must. Not only does this save an enormous amount of resources for your employees and company, you also become more efficient in enterprise resource planning, acquire more customers and increase customer loyalty.
Whether you want to take a look at Clarity's industry leading eCommerce platform or simply want a custom integration for your current line of business systems or eCommerce website, give Clarity a call today!