If you’re an e-commerce shipper, you are probably already well aware of the online shopping boom. E-commerce sales are skyrocketing and demand for shipping capacity from Asia to Europe and North America is exploding.
US Customs Complexity
Importing goods from overseas often means lower product costs, but it also means handling more paperwork. Especially if you’re importing goods from Asia to the United States, keeping up with customs is vital to your business’ bottom line.
And this means submitting an accurate and complete commercial invoice.
We surveyed buyers on Freightos.com a couple months back and found that 17% of them listed dealing with custom as their biggest pain point when shipping. When we followed up on this and asked our customer success team about it, they reported that at least half of the questions that they get have to do with customs.
This is why we’re going to demystify US customs and help you book your next shipment with confidence. The first thing you need to know about is the commercial invoice.
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Getting Your Commercial Invoice For US Customs Done Right
For importers to the US, the most important thing you need to do to keep customs under control is to familiarize yourself with commercial invoice requirements.
While you should be able to provide a proper invoice, it’s still recommended to work with a good customs broker who can advise you on anything else required.
Providing accurate information to your customs broker and on your commercial invoice will likely mean reaching out to your supplier. Since your supplier might not have the same urgency that you do so, give yourself enough time to get what you need before shipping.
Once your supplier has given you information, you’ll be able to create your commercial invoice. This is the most important part of US customs, so getting it right is vital.
4 Things You Need to Know About Commercial Invoices
You’re ready to ship your goods and get them sold, but first you’ll need to prepare your shipment for customs clearance by creating an accurate commercial invoice.
Here’s what you need to include on your commercial invoice to keep your goods moving and avoid unnecessary charges:
1. Fill in a coherent and accurate item description (in English).
The item description should match the product listed on the invoice and should also match the product’s HS code.
(More on HS codes in a minute.)
For many suppliers, English is not their first language so relying on them for the item description isn’t advisable. When importing to the US, check the item description on your commercial to ensure that it is accurate and understandable to customs agents.
Even if the description is correct and matches the items being shipped, these must also be reflected in the product’s classification.
2. Get your HS code double checked.
Overseas suppliers will often give you an HS classification code for your goods, but these aren’t always correct. When filling out a commercial invoice, ask your customs broker to verify that your product is properly classified. Mistakes could lead to delays and additional charges at US customs.
There are tools online that can help you figure out a product’s HS code, but it’s always advisable to speak to a certified customs broker about the proper classification.
Ready to check you HS codes? Try our handy HS code calculator.
3. Ensure that you have the country of origin clearly marked on the commercial invoice.
Sometimes you may be shipping from a different country than where the goods were originally made. In the commercial invoice, it’s important to list the country of origin where the goods were manufactured and not where they are being shipped from..
This will also include detailing the currency of the sale.
4. Don’t forget the basics.
It might sound silly, but silly mistakes can be very costly.
When filling out your commercial invoice for US customs, make sure to list yourself and include your tax ID. A licensed customs broker will be able to look over your commercial invoice and point to where information is missing or verify the classification of your goods, but giving accurate details is the responsibility of the importer.