New Customs Data Rules for International Shipping: What you need to know

New Customs Data Rules for International Shipping: What you need to know

Posted by Kevin L on 25th Aug 2023

Learn about the new rules for customs forms in international postage, including important information about Royal Mail, CN22 and CN23 customs forms, and the use of HS codes. Stay informed and avoid any customs-related issues. Discover what you need to know!

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In the world of international postage, there have been recent changes to the rules and regulations regarding customs forms. If you frequently send items abroad, it is crucial to stay up-to-date with these changes to ensure a smooth and hassle-free shipping process. This article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the new rules and how they impact your shipping procedures. So, let's dive in!

Understanding Customs Forms and Their Importance

Customs forms are essential documents that provide information about the contents of a package being shipped internationally. These forms help customs authorities in different countries assess duties, taxes, and regulations applicable to the items being imported or exported. They also assist in determining the appropriate classification and treatment of goods during transit.

Before the recent changes, customs forms were primarily physical documents known as CN22 or CN23. These forms were attached to packages and provided crucial information about the sender, recipient, and contents of the shipment. However, with the new rules, electronic customs data is now mandatory in addition to the physical customs declaration.

The Transition to Electronic Customs Data

As of January 1, 2020, electronic customs data became a mandatory requirement for all international shipments (excluding personal correspondence). This means that in addition to completing the physical customs declaration, you are also required to provide customs data electronically. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in delays, return of packages, or even destruction of items in some cases.

The implementation of electronic customs data aims to streamline and enhance the customs clearance process, making it more efficient and accurate. When you provide customs data electronically, it enables customs authorities to assess duties, taxes, and other regulatory requirements before the package arrives in the destination country. This helps expedite the customs clearance process and reduces the chances of any unforeseen issues or delays.

How to Provide Electronic Customs Data

To comply with the new regulations, there are several ways to provide electronic customs data for your international shipments. One of the most convenient methods is by using shipping platforms that meet the compliance requirements. These platforms, such as Click & Drop and Pro Shipping, capture and generate customs data files automatically. They also create the necessary labels to accompany your items during shipment.

Alternatively, you can integrate your own system with API Shipping, which allows you to seamlessly transmit electronic customs data to the relevant authorities. Integrating your system with API Shipping ensures that the required data is accurately and securely transmitted, minimizing the risk of errors or delays in customs clearance.

Mandatory Fields for Electronic Customs Data

When providing electronic customs data, there are specific fields that are mandatory to ensure compliance with the regulations. Let's take a closer look at these fields and understand their significance:

Sender Information

  • Despatching Business Name: This field requires the name of the business or sender.
  • Sender's Site Address: The first lines of the sender's site address should be provided.
  • Sender's Post Town: The post town of the sender's location is required.

Recipient Information

  • Name of Recipient: The full name of the recipient should be provided.
  • Recipient's Post Town: The post town of the recipient's location is required.
  • Recipient's Postcode: The postcode of the recipient's location should be provided.

Delivery Address Summary

  • Delivery Address Line 1: This field may vary depending on the platform used but typically contains the first line of the delivery address.
  • City: The city or town of the delivery address should be provided.
  • Postcode: The postcode of the delivery address is required.

Item Information

  • Nature of Item: This field requires you to specify the type of item being shipped, such as documents, non-documents, or other goods.
  • Quantity: The number of units in the package should be indicated.
  • Unit Weight: The weight per individual unit in the package must be provided.

Customs Information

  • Price: The gross value of the units in the package should be stated.
  • Shipping Cost: If applicable, the shipping cost paid by the purchaser should be provided.
  • Customs Code: The HS or Tariff (Customs) Code for the units within the package is mandatory.
  • Country of Origin: The country of origin of the units being shipped must be specified.
  • Currency Indicator: This field requires the currency code for all values related to the items in the customs declaration.
  • Unit Price: The individual unit value of the items should be stated.
  • Customs Description: A clear description of the contents of the package should be provided.

It is important to ensure that all mandatory fields are accurately completed when providing electronic customs data. Failure to provide the required information may result in non-compliance and potential delays in customs clearance.

The Role of Harmonized System Codes

Harmonized System (HS) codes play a crucial role in the classification and identification of goods for customs purposes. These codes are standardized numerical codes used worldwide to classify traded products. Customs authorities rely on HS codes to determine the appropriate duties, taxes, and regulations applicable to specific products.

In the United States, a 10-digit code known as the Schedule B number is used to classify products for export. The first six digits of the Schedule B number correspond to the HS code. This system allows for further classification beyond the six-digit HS code.

To identify the appropriate HS code for your product, you can utilize resources such as the Census Bureau's Schedule B search tool. This online tool helps classify products based on their characteristics and provides valuable guidance in determining the correct HS code. Additionally, the Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS) database can help if your product is challenging to classify by providing rulings on similar products.

Stay Updated with HS Code Changes

HS codes are subject to periodic updates to ensure accuracy and relevance. As of January 1, 2022, the World Customs Organization (WCO) implemented the 7th edition of its Harmonized System. This update brings changes to HS codes, duty and VAT rates, and implications for prohibited and restricted goods screening.

To stay informed about the latest updates and changes to HS codes, you can visit the GOV.UK website or utilize the HMRC Trade Tariff tool. These resources provide comprehensive information to help you navigate the complexities of customs classifications and minimize any potential delays or issues with your shipments.


In conclusion, the new rules regarding customs forms in international postage aim to streamline the customs clearance process and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Providing electronic customs data has become mandatory, in addition to completing physical customs declarations. By understanding and adhering to the mandatory fields and requirements for electronic customs data, you can ensure a smooth and efficient shipping experience for your international shipments.

Utilizing shipping platforms, integrating systems with API Shipping, and staying updated with HS code changes are essential steps to comply with the new regulations. By following these guidelines and providing accurate and complete customs data, you can minimize delays, prevent the return of packages, and ensure the successful delivery of your items to their international destinations. Stay informed, stay compliant, and enjoy a hassle-free international shipping experience.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It is recommended to consult with relevant authorities or experts to ensure compliance with customs regulations and requirements.