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5 tips to help you navigate customs for your business

One of the most exciting things about growing your business is finding new suppliers and customers abroad. With customs being a process that you’re going to experience to facilitate shipping abroad, let us show you the way to navigate customs with five simple tips so you can take your product from Africa to the World with confidence.

1. Plan ahead

Customs is largely an administrative process that requires submission of the right documentation on time. Therefore, you need to make sure that you understand the process before jumping in. Which forms should you fill in? Do you know the regulations around what you’re sending? Do you know what you need to do to meet all customs requirements?

Customs procedures are always changing, and each product or commodity is subject to different rules and regulations. So, take the time to do your research and find out about the customs differences between nations. You can subscribe to the FedEx eNews Center, for example, to get alerted about the latest news and updates on shipping regulation changes that may impact your shipments.

2. Get to know the local market

Develop your knowledge around local standards and requirements for doing business in a particular country or region. From a customs perspective, most countries already have documentation online to help you build up your local customs knowledge. At FedEx, we also have comprehensive information available online and a team of experts to guide you along the way.

3. Use technology to simplify the process

Commercial invoice, air waybill, custom house broker, harmonized system code, duties and taxes – you’re guaranteed to encounter these keywords or documents during your customs process. However, an express service provider like FedEx makes understanding them simple because we offer comprehensive customs tools and platforms that enable you to prepare and submit your important customs documents electronically.

There’s no need to figure everything out yourself. Our FedEx® Electronic Trade Documents tool will let you upload and submit documents ahead of shipping. You can also save the documents you use most so you have them available anytime. Plus, we offer pre-clearance assistance and proactive customer support to reduce any potential customs delays. FedEx Global Trade Manager tool on the other hand, can help you find international customs documents, gives you access to shipping advisories, country profiles and the harmonized codes/ tariff classification for your product.

4. Remember your duties and taxes

Most international shipments will be subject to duty and tax assessments in importing countries. Common taxes include sales tax, value-added tax (VAT) and goods and services tax (GST). Before you import or export, take some time to understand the clearance fees that your business will incur. These will be listed on your duty and tax invoice as separate line items, so make provision for these tariffs to avoid any delays.

5. General tips to remember

It’s easy to miss the small details when it comes to customs, so keep these general tips in mind so that your shipments get to where they need to go on time:

  • Make sure information is consistent across all required customs documents.
  • Keep multiple-piece shipments together and label each piece of the shipment individually.
  • Declare the accurate value for your item(s), even if it’s being provided to the recipient at no charge.
  • When filling out customs documents, list each commodity separately, and provide a detailed, accurate description of each one – including what it’s made of and how it will be used.
  • Provide a phone number or fax information for both the sender and the consignee.
  • Check on consignee registration with the regulating authorities and ability to provide the required permits.

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