Thursday, March 3, 2011

If You Do International Shipping, You Will See These Forms

If You Do International Shipping, You Will See These Forms
Following last week’s international shipping information, here are some of the documents encountered in international shipping with a short description for each.

Generally for international shipping you must provide a description of what you are sending, the quantity and price that will be used in customs clearance, whether it is a commercial invoice for UPS or FedEx or the 2976 or 2976A form for the US Postal Service.

Commercial Invoice
The Commercial Invoice describes the entire shipment and the transaction. It shows terms, payment, who shipped the items, who is receiving them, the date shipped, tariff and product classification codes used by the governments involved, plus other details. It is also the primary document used by Customs worldwide for commodity control and valuation.

Certificate of Origin – NAFTA Certificate of Origin
Some countries require a Certificate of Origin (CO) for certain products to establish the country of origin for the shipment’s products. The CO may be needed due to various reasons, including: making sure the goods from a certain country can be imported into another country; that the quantity ordered is OK to import; to determine the duty rates; or goods from one country may receive preferred treatment when going to another country.

A NAFTA Certificate of Origin can be used for shipments from the US to Mexico or Canada as long as the products meet the criteria for North American Origin. There are special benefits for these goods.

The descriptions and amounts on the CO must match those entered on the Invoice. Check to see if the country you are shipping to requires a CO for your goods.

Shipper’s Export Declaration
The Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) is used to compile U.S. export trade statistics and for export control. With some exemptions, for shipments to foreign countries the Department of Commerce requires the SED for all shipments with individual items valued at $2,500 or more ($500 for Parcel Post Shipments). This form is also required if an Export License is needed or if the shipment has been consigned to a controlled destination.

An SED is needed for shipments between the United States and Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands of the United States. An SED is also needed for shipments from Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Islands. Stiff civil and criminal penalties can result when the SED is not provided or contains incorrect information. SED information can be filed online at

You must also include the Harmonized System Classification or Schedule B code for the product. The Harmonized System (HS) Classification is a 6-digit standardized numerical method of classifying traded products. HS numbers are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products for the application of duties and taxes. Additional digits are added to the HS number by some governments to further distinguish products in certain categories.

In the United States, “Schedule B” numbers are also used to classify exported products. The U.S. Census Bureau administers the Schedule B system. Schedule B numbers, not HS numbers, must be provided on the Shippers’ Export Declaration (SED) whenever this document is needed. The Census Bureau uses SEDs and Schedule B numbers to calculate U.S. export statistics.

There are differences between the HS classification number and the Schedule B number. The HS number is an internationally accepted code. The basic HS code contains 6-digits, known as a subheading. The Schedule B is a 10-digit code built upon the first 6 digits of the HS code. Additionally, the Schedule B code is a US-specific coding system used by the U.S. Government to monitor U.S. exports. Here is an example in the section on Coffee, Tea, Maté and Spices: You can read more at this government link:

Look to your shipping system to make international shipping easier. For example, our CPS(TM) shipping software helps prepare the USPS’ 2976 and 2976A forms as well as printing commercial invoices and certificates of origin - including the NAFTA certificate of origin. All of the product information, including the codes and classifications, can be stored in the CPS product data table. CPS can also read product information directly from your data tables. For the final step, CPS also sends customs data directly to the package carriers to meet the carrier and government requirements. Every step here helps a shipper’s processes for the smooth delivery of packages and to reduce the time it takes to ship an international package. For information about CPS, visit our web site at

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