Navigating International Customs

For the first timer, sending an international parcel could seem like a bit of a minefield. Here at ParcelHero we demystify the world of international customs.

Sounds obvious but just to be clear… if you are sending something within the UK, no customs involved, ditto a delivery to anywhere in the European Union. International customs kicks in when you are sending something outside the EU. Here are some user-friendly tips for international shipping.

ParcelHero Packaging TIps 6

The Customs Invoice
The most important thing to remember when shipping beyond the EU is the customs invoice. This provides the customs authority on the receiving end of your package the information they need to process your parcel. This is automatically provided by ParcelHero® when you complete your order using our Instant Quote booking form. You just need to give us some details, we create your customs docs ready for you to print and attach to your package.

Unless you are sending documents, you have to declare the value of each item within the shipment. This is so customs authorities are aware of the contents of the package as well as the amount of duty or tax that needs to be applied to it.

When you book a parcel to be shipped beyond the EU, ParcelHero® will prompt you for this information:

  • a list of the items inside your shipment
  • the value of each item
  • the reason for export, i.e. personal effects, business products or a gift.

When this is complete, these details will be added to your customs invoice, ready for printing. It is a good idea to print at least two copies of the customs invoice: attach one to the outer packaging of your parcel and place another inside the box. Better safe than sorry.

US CustomsCustoms Restrictions
The second most important thing to remember is customs restrictions. All countries have their own rules and regulations so it’s always worth checking the customs restrictions page for your destination country before booking your delivery.  The last thing you or we want is for your parcel to be rejected or delayed at customs. And if it is sent back, you will be liable for the return shipping costs. Lets avoid all that.

For example, the USA customs website lists all the prohibited items that are not allowed to enter the United States. China has restrictions in place for the import of certain literature that contradicts their nation’s political ideology, while some South American countries do not allow second hand clothes to be imported, even if they are personal effects. See our blog on the 9 of the weirdest customs laws, you’d be surprised!

Customs InformationImport Duty and Tax
It’s important to understand that most international shipments outside the EU to countries like Bangladesh or Turkey, will be liable for duty and tax. Some items are exempt but if not, its equally important to understand that this charge is not included in your courier’s quote. These charges are applied by the customs authority and not by the courier.

Import duty and tax is applied to packages as they arrive in the country and is normally paid by the recipient of your parcel. If you are sending a gift (that is not exempt anyway) , you can arrange for the charge to be paid by the sender.

You definitely want to declare the value of your goods accurately. To make things a little simpler, every product has a commodity code (also known as a Customs Tariff code or harmonization code). Every code has a set level of duty and tax to be applied to it that varies from country to country. It is important to state this code correctly otherwise the customs authority will have to guess, which could lead to you being charged more than you should.

When declaring the value of other items suggesting an unrealistic value will only lead to the customs authority checking the item for themselves. They may charge you a fee for declaring it wrongly and subsequently charge the correct amount. Importing a laptop worth £700 for example, but declaring its value as £200 (as this is the amount it is worth second-hand) may incur suspicion and you may be asked to justify this value before it is cleared.

Parcel Tracking
Tracking Your Parcel
Tracking your parcel’s progress is an integral part of shipping internationally. When booking with ParcelHero® Real-Time parcel tracking is included with every booking. This ensures you are kept up-to-date with live parcel scanning updates and up to date information on the status of your parcel as it passes through customs.

If your shipment is delayed in customs, your tracking status will automatically change to ‘Exception’. You can check for further details on why it delayed via the tracking portal located on our website. If a parcel is delayed this tends to be due to the customs authority requiring payment from the recipient on any duty or taxes that may have been applied. To speed this up, give the recipient a call or a message and prompt them to pay the fee. When you book, we offer the option of providing us with an email for your recipient so we can help get the charge paid and the parcel moving again.


Packaging Your Parcel
Last but not least, make sure your parcel is packaged correctly. International shipments require robust and effective packaging to avoid any risk of your items being damaged. We recommend:

  • Choose a new box for maximum protection and secure tightly with packaging tape. If you do use an old box, make sure to reinforce all flaps and hinges with packaging tape
  • Place the item inside the box and fill any spare space with insulation, like newspaper or packaging chips
  • Remove any unnecessary barcodes or stickers from the box
  • If sending a gift, don’t use gift wrapping as the outer packaging. Use it instead as the inner packaging. A customs officer may need to open the package to check the contents

Check out our packaging page for expert packaging advice.

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