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A guide to filling a commercial customs invoice

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If you have been in the import or export industry, or are planning on venturing into that industry, you would have come across the terms, ‘customs invoice’, ‘shipping invoice’ or even ‘commercial customs invoice’ at least once. These terms broadly refer to a document detailing the nature and value of the goods you intend to ship to another country. 

These documents are essential to customs authorities worldwide as they help determine any duties and taxes that apply to your shipments, the exact nature of your goods, as well as any laws and regulations that would have to be enforced on your transported items.

In Singapore, providing a well-crafted and high-quality customs invoice will ensure a quicker moving customs procedure for your goods, leading to time saved on your deliveries in the future. It also helps to prevent your items from getting stuck in customs or getting delayed in the shipping process. This article aims to detail the information needed within customs commercial invoices, tips on filling out these documents, and on how DHL Express has come up with a more efficient method of completing customs documents.

Steps to filling up commercial invoices 

1. Research country-specific information on customs regulations

The accuracy of a commercial invoice for customs clearance is of paramount importance, evident in entire shipments being held back for faulty documentation and unclear information alone. Different countries have their own unique customs clearance regulations and both money as well as time can be saved by researching thoroughly and documenting information that the country relevant to your shipments would require in their customs clearance process.

2. Provide accurate and detailed product information

Whether it is a commercial invoice for export or import, the documents should reflect all specifications of the products you intend to ship. This can include but is not limited to the weight, quantity, retail value, ingredients, and other unique details relevant to your goods.

It is important to note that one should be as precise as possible when filling up a customs invoice and the purpose for importing or exporting specific items, in particular, to give the customs authorities as much information as possible to determine whether your shipments can be transported internationally. 

One example of an invoice not being specific and precise enough could be describing a piece of shipped clothing as, ‘textile’. To circumvent this, you should instead describe the piece of clothing as perhaps a, ‘blue sleeveless male t-shirt made of cotton’ or something of the like. By being comprehensive and thorough with your customs invoice, you are making the import process much smoother for yourself and the customs officers assigned to your shipments.

  • Information of shipper and receiver – Include the full name, address and contact details of both the exporter and importer.

  • Identification Number – Include the Identification Number of both the shipper and the receiver. Also include the VAT or GST number if applicable. For shipments to the EU, include a EORI number and for packages to the Africa region, indicate TIN/PIN Numbers.

  • Goods description – Describe each commodity clearly and precisely.

  • Harmonized System (HS) code & country of origin (CO) – Obtain the HS code of your product – an internationally recognised code that allows customs to understand the nature of your goods and to calculate its retail value. The CO lets authorities know which country the goods were produced or manufactured.

  • Values & currency – Provide the value of each item and including other costs, such as inurance, freight and packaging.

  • Weight & quantity – Indicate the unit (e.g. KG) and quantity (e.g. 2 items).

  • INCOTERMS® & place – Specify who is responsible for managing the shipment.

  • Proof of origin statement – Procure a document that acts as proof of the origin of the product. This can help shippers receive preferential taxes and duties rates.

  • Reason for export – Provide the reason for export (e.g. gift, distribution, return)

  • Other requirements – Obtain additional permits or licences if applicable.

How can DHL Express streamline my commercial invoicing process for shipping? 

DHL Express’ shipping platform, MyDHL+, allows you to fill in your details into your invoices electronically instead of having to print them out manually to hand to customs officers. This is important as it allows shipment data to be sent ahead of time to customs authorities, allowing for a quicker and more efficient clearance process via an electronic platform.

Updating and filling in your personal and shipment details ensure a smoother customs process in the long run. This is further compounded by the fact that our system will be able to remember any overlapping information, which would then save you the time and hassle of filling in said information again.

DHL Express’ customs invoice system also allows you to manage and track your shipments, access any prior shipment bills, calculate duties and taxes relevant to your goods, and provide sample customs invoices that can apply to a variety of different products and items for international transport.

Move your customs documents online and open an account with us today. DHL Express smoothens your customs clearance process, and guarantees a more streamlined and effortless commercial as well as customs invoicing process for all your international shipping needs.