Tuesday, June 24, 2008

International Shipping Tips for UPS, FedEx and USPS (Part 2)

For your international packages, do you create customs forms through your shipping software or do you attach your own forms to the package? Customs forms have to meet certain specs and need to contain specific information. This information includes a description of the goods in the shipment, their value, its classification (a merchandise sale, gift, documents only, etc.), and accurate customs Schedule B and Harmonized Tariff codes so that your packages clear customs without delays.

Here is some information about Schedule B codes that comes from the US Census Bureau. You can get additional information about these codes at the US Census Bureau web site:


Millions of trade transactions occur each year. These transactions are classified under approximately 8,000 different products leaving the United States and every exported item is assigned a unique 10-digit identification code. For example, concentrated frozen apple juice is assigned a 10-digit identifier that is in a broader category that is assigned a 6-digit identifier for apple juice. The 6-digit identifier for apple juice is in another broader category assigned a 4-digit identifier for fruit juices, vegetable juices, etc. The 4-digit identifier is in another broader category assigned a 2-digit identifier for Preparations of Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts, etc.

What's the difference between the Schedule B codes (for exports) and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes (for imports)? All of the import and export codes used by the United States are based on the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS - http://www.usitc.gov/tata/index.htm). The HTS assigns 6-digit codes for general categories. Countries which use the HTS are allowed to define commodities at a more detailed level than 6-digits, but all definitions must be within that 6-digit framework. The U.S. defines products using 10-digit HTS codes, like the example for concentrated frozen apple juice. Export codes (which the U.S. calls Schedule B) are administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Import codes are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).

The USPS uses forms called 2976 or 2976A to record and print this information. UPS and FedEx use a commercial invoice. Regardless of which form or carrier is used, your products must be properly documented or your package will sit at customs until clarification is provided.

We'll get into more about international customs forms in a subsequent post. There will be several more posts on international shipping to follow over the next few weeks. Subscribe to our feed to receive them automatically or visit us again next week.

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