Understanding Customs Declarations

If you are shipping internationally, your packages will always pass through customs. As a shipper, you want to ensure you declare what is being shipped, so your package makes it to the recipient without any issues.

To make this process as easy as possible, Shippo will automatically create a Customs Declaration for orders with international addresses using the item information for the order!

Please check out our article on Carriers Supported by Shippo to see which Shippo supported carriers you can use to ship internationally from your country.


What are Customs Declarations?

A Customs Declaration is the process of declaring the items that you are shipping across international borders. Items shipped across international borders are generally subject to import/export taxes, customs duties, and fees.



When declaring items, it is critical that you are not vague in describing your item.


If the Custom Agency is unable to determine what is in your package, they reserve the right to hold it for clarification, return the package, and/or discard the package.  

Examples of vagueness include descriptions such as: "gift", "bottle", "box", "supplies".

To ensure your package successfully makes it way through customs, please be descriptive as possible and do not leave your description open to interpretation. 


Exceptions to Customs Declaration Requirements

In some cases, the Customs Declaration is not required, and shippers can opt-out of including one. It is the shipper's responsibility to include customs documentation when required.

Two examples of exceptions are:

  • Shipping between certain European Union countries
  • Shipping from the United States to U.S. Territories with some carriers
    • i.e US > Puerto Rico, through USPS


What is a Commercial Invoice?

A Commercial Invoice is the physical document used to declare your items for customs purposes.

It is provided through Shippo in several ways:

  • Included as part of the actual shipping label
  • Included on a separate page(s) as part of the shipping label download
  • Available to print by clicking Download Commercial Invoice on the Shipments Page.
  • Sent electronically through a process called Paperless Trade where a physical copy is not required


What are customs fees?

Customs agencies use the commodity, quantity, value, country of manufacture, and other factors to determine duties and taxes charges for international shipments.

Customs fees (duties and taxes) are not included in the Shippo rate and will be added on after the package has been sent by the customs agencies of the sending and receiving countries. 


Should I select DDU, DDP, or FCA?

The customs fees must be paid either by the sender or the recipient. This is determined by the incoterm that you select when you do your customs declaration.

Shippo supports three options:

  • DDU (Delivery Duties Unpaid)
  • DDP (Delivery Duties Paid)
  • FCA (Free Carrier)


If you have an IOSS number, select DDU as the Incoterm to ensure the customs fees are billed properly.



DDU is the default option in Shippo and means that your customer, the recipient, will be responsible for paying the customs charges before receiving the package.

  • The carrier will contact the customer for payment instructions once the charges are calculated and the package is ready for final delivery.


Choose DDP if you would like to pay all customs fees on behalf of your customer. This is common when sending a gift internationally.

  • USPS does not enable DDP for their shipments. All USPS international shipments will be sent DDU.
  • Customs charges will be calculated and charged to you, the sender, approximately three weeks after shipment. Charges will be billed through your carrier account or through Shippo if a Shippo carrier account was used.
  • DHL Express and UPS charge an additional processing fee for DDP.


Free Carrier (FCA) shipments are supported only FedEx and DHL Express. With FCA, you deliver the goods, cleared for export, at a named place and the shipment can be delivered to a carrier nominated by the buyer. Your buyer must nominate a carrier.



Please note, this field would only be required if the item is shipped from the US to China, Russia, or Venezuela. If you are shipping to any other country, you do not need to have this number. 
ECCN codes are five character alpha-numeric designations used on the Commerce Control List (CCL) in the United States to identify dual-use items for export control purposes. An ECCN categorizes items based on the nature of the product, i.e. type of commodity, software, or technology and its respective technical parameters.
If the item is in the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and is not listed on the CCL, it is designated as Ear99 instead:

Shipping to the European Union

As part of the ICS2 (Import Control System 2) for the European Union, merchants shipping into or between EU Member States are asked to provide item descriptions in plain language that is precise enough for customs authorities to be able to identify the goods.
For example, you should choose ‘Men’s Shirt’ as your description instead of ‘Apparel’.
This information will be displayed on the label for all shipments that include customs documentation. You can find a list of generic, unacceptable terms along with the suggested alternatives provided by the European Commission here.

Additionally, an EORI, TaxID, VAT number or IOSS number may be required.

Brokerage Fees

The brokerage fee is the fee you pay an entity to clear it through customs for you. The duties and taxes fees is the amount that the customs borders patrol charges to bring something into the country. 

For our UPS and DHL Express Shippo master accounts, Shippo does not cover this amount and this will be part of any customs duties and taxes on our master account.

For Shippo's USPS master account, USPS operates with the in country post so there are NO brokerage fees.

For shippers that connect their own carrier account, these fees would be invoiced directly by the carrier. 

Please see EORI, TaxID/VAT & IOSS for full details!


What do I do with the Commercial Invoice?


For USPS international shipments, you do not need to include a Commercial Invoice with your shipment so you will not see a button to download one.

All necessary customs information is included with the USPS label automatically.

  • USPS First Class Package International labels will be a single page with the customs details are included right on the label.
  • USPS Priority Mail International labels come have a few variations depending on the shipment's specifications:
    • The label file may be a single page with the customs details included right on the label.
    • The label file may be two pages — the first is the label, which you should apply to the box as normal, and the second is a copy for your records.
    • The label file may be three or four pages — the first is the label and should be put on the box, the second (and third) should be included in a pouch on the outside of the package, and the final page is for your records. 


Please print the entirety of the file that is created—the label and commercial invoice should be included in that file.

The first page will be the label. The next three identical pages will be the commercial invoice—these need to be attached to the outside of the package inside a clear pouch. The fourth page can be kept for your records. 

UPS labels that print "EDI" on the label, are eligible for Paperless Trade


Other Carriers

For FedEx, Canada Post, and DHL Express, the Commercial Invoice is not included with the labels, and you will need to click Download Invoice to print the Commercial Invoice after downloading your label.  You can find this option by clicking the dropdown arrow next to the order/shipment on the Orders or Shipments pages. 

You need to print three copies of the commercial invoice, sign them, and include them in a pouch on the package. DHL Express labels will also include an "Archive Doc," which is sometimes requested by DHL employees but is not required. Just keep it on hand during drop-off/pick-up in case it's needed.



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