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How to Import – Internet Purchases, Customs Declarations

All paperwork for sending packages internationally has a section for providing Customs information. A Customs Declaration is a form obtainable at most foreign post offices. This declaration form should include a full and accurate description of the merchandise, and should be securely attached to the outside of your shipment. Declaration forms vary from country to country, and they don’t all ask for the information required by the U.S. Customs Service. You should ask the seller to provide the following information, whether or not it is asked for on the paperwork. Seller’s name and address. Description of the item(s) in English (a legal requirement). For example, antique silver teapot, silk kimono, 18-karat gold rope necklace. It is very important that this information be detailed and accurate. What is described here will determine the classification number and duty rate that Customs assigns the item when it arrives in the United States. If this information is inaccurate, you could end up paying the wrong duty rate for what you purchased. If it is inaccurate enough to seem deliberately misleading — keep in mind that Customs does randomly inspect packages — your goods could be seized and you may be assessed a fine.

Quantity of each type of item being shipped. For example, two watches (14-karat gold, 17 jewel), one leather purse.

Purchase price in U.S. dollars. Provide both the unit price, and if more than one unit was purchased, the total value for all like items. Fudging or miscalculating the price paid for goods is a bad idea. Many sellers offer to misrepresent costs in an effort to save the purchaser from having to pay duty, but this is illegal. Others sellers are wary of package handlers and do not want them to know how valuable something may be, which could result in its theft. The most common legal precaution against theft is to insure the package when sending it. You should discuss insurance options with your seller, keeping in mind that misrepresenting the value of an item on the Customs declaration is illegal.

Weight of the item(s).

Country of origin of the product itself. Be aware that this is not necessarily the country where the item was purchased.

Note: It is important to know that foreign shipments that are not accompanied by a Customs declaration form and an invoice may be subject to seizure, forfeiture or return to sender.

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