Understanding International Customs

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What Is Customs?

Customs is a term commonly used in international shipping pointing to the duties, fees or taxes charged on items being shipped from one country to another. Costs can vary depending on the items and countries being shipping from and into.

Each country has its own customs rules and guidelines, but no matter where you’re shipping, our online tools will accurately let you know what to expect.

Who Pays Customs Duties, Fees or Taxes?

Either the seller or the buyer of a shipment must pay customs duties, fees or taxes. Generally, the party responsible for payment is prearranged in the shipper and receiver’s terms of sale. (Check your terms of sale to learn whether you’re responsible.) Terms will typically require the buyer to pay. This is called Delivery Duty Unpaid (DDU).

If a shipment is DDU, the buyer pays any applicable customs duties, fees or taxes when the shipment arrives at the border - before the shipment can be delivered. However, if the shipment is designated Delivery Duty Paid (DDP), the seller pays. Typically, merchants will ship DDP and pass the cost along to the consumer up front.

Depending on the quantity or value of what you’re shipping, and where the shipment is going, there may be no costs at all. Use our landed costs estimator to calculate what your expected costs are likely to be.

We’ll Help You Complete Your Forms as You Go

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Our web shipping tool will automatically generate customs forms for you to help you glide through the shipping process.

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The Forms You’ll Need To Use — Explained

Not sure what forms you’ll need? We took the time to break each of them down so you know the sole purpose behind each one and why you will or won’t need it.

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Tips To Clear Customs Quicker

Minimize Paperwork — Send Documents Electronically

UPS Paperless® Invoice helps you streamline the customs clearance process. Upload any form electronically and transmit your data to customs offices across the globe.

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Know Your Harmonized Tariff Codes

Inaccurate descriptions of the goods being shipped may result in customs delays or unexpected charges. Make sure your description is thorough and accurate—and use correct harmonized tariff codes.

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