As an international seller, you must comply with local laws when selling across borders and you should research this aspect thoroughly. Important areas to consider are:
Duties and taxes
Duties and taxes may be charged to the buyer on certain items and vary by country. Before selling and shipping internationally, confirm if your products will be subject to duty charges for the markets you’re selling to.
Many international shipping carriers offer the option to pay duties before an item is shipped, which is often referred to as Delivery Duty Paid (DDP), or your customers can defer duty payment until the item is received in-country, often referred to as Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU).
Always make sure your customers are aware that additional duties charges may apply and it’s their responsibility to pay these fees before they can collect their goods.
Customs and regulations
All shipments must clear customs - the agency that regulates shipments entering a country or region. To help customs officials understand the contents, value, and purpose of your shipment, you must attach customs forms to the outside of your package so they can be examined easily.
Many countries use the international harmonized system to identify and classify import goods. The harmonized system is manage by the World Customs Organization and provides a uniform method for customs authorities to apply duties. As a first step in understanding what duties or customs fees may apply for your goods, you should identify the harmonized code for your products.
As a general rule, you should not declare your package’s contents as a “gift.” It’s against the law to misrepresent an item for the purpose of avoiding customs fees.
Free Trade Agreements
The U.S. has free-trade agreements in place with 20 countries to date (and even more on the horizon). As an international seller, these free-trade agreements can help reduce or eliminate tariffs for specific categories of products. For instance, a country that normally charges a 5% tariff on the value of an imported product will eliminate that tariff for products that originate (as defined in the FTA) in the United States.*
Taking advantage of the negotiated free trade rates may require more record keeping, but that extra effort could save you money if you plan to export into any of the participating countries.
For more customs information, including how to find your harmonized code, visit these helpful sites:
- Export.gov: Find information on export procedures and regulations.
- United States Postal Service: Find information on important customs forms.
- World Customs Organization: Find more information about customs regulations around the world.
- U.S. Free Trade Agreements: Find countries with a free-trade agreement in place with the U.S., along with tools to calculate taxes.