Useful Customs Tips for SMEs Shipping Internationally

4 min read
facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
linkedin sharing button
Smart Share Buttons Icon Share

There is no single guideline that can help you clear customs in every country because each country is governed by their own set of rules and regulations. However, there are some fundamental rules that will warrant your shipment a smooth process through customs.

You should know the importance of an accurate invoice. Even when you furnish a clear invoice, destination customs may still put your shipment through a long clearance process for various reasons. When you engage an international courier service in Singapore, you expect your shipment to be fast, reliable, and predictable.

When you ship with DHL Express, we want to reduce the uncertainty and give you an in-depth understanding of the various components of the process so that we will be able to overcome all aspects and scenarios of shipping internationally.


No two countries clear shipments similarly. There are various rules and tax brackets for clearing different commodities and shipments with different values. DHL Express is unable to give a confirmation on these taxes or regulations prior to shipping, as we do not have control or influence over customs actions. We can advise based on previous shipments or similar commodities, but at the end of the day, you should work closely with your recipient to get a better view of the situation.

We strongly urge that you contact your consignee for them to check and advise if your shipment might face any delay or additional costs to bring in. You should only start shipping when you are sure that you have all your information, along with the terms of shipping with your consignee in order. To understand more about shipping terms, take a look at incoterms. 

It is also crucial that you understand the current state of the country you are shipping to. Government stability, prolonged public holidays, economic unrest, and other world-events may contribute to the clearance delay of your shipment.


As a rule of thumb, the more your shipment’s value is, the more it will be taxed. Each air waybill (AWB) is tagged to one shipping invoice. Sometimes, people tend to squeeze more pieces or items to a single AWB to save on shipping costs. However, due to the cumulative value of the shipping invoice, the taxation percentage may supersede the price of splitting your shipment into multiple AWBs.

Shipments are put on hold when they are pending for duties and taxes payment and could cause further delay to the process. You can consider selecting “Duties & Taxes Paid” (DTP), which will trigger an automatic billing to your export account once the duties and taxes charge has been issued at the destination.

Finally, when you have all the relevant information and made all the necessary preparations, you can begin to ship! With one last note in mind.


By now you should understand that clearing customs is not a simple feat. There are many variables and considerations with different commodities and countries having different requirements. 

At DHL Express, we do our very best to provide you a smooth international express delivery experience. However, we do not control or influence the decision of customs. When importing or exporting, you need to have realistic expectations and understand that previous shipments are not a firm reference for how future shipments might fare. DHL Express provides fair and accurate estimates of the transit time that is subject to customs clearance of the origin and destination country.

If you have shipped out your parcel and realised that you have made a mistake on the invoice, or that your consignee is unwilling to incur the taxes, don’t worry! We offer flexible alternatives to cater to every situation. We provide options for returning your shipment back to the shipper for a charge if you change your mind. For account holders, we also provide an implementation of our DTP service after you have shipped out. 


Whether you are a trader, a freight forwarder, or a shipping agent, you need to obtain a UEN number by registering with Singapore customs in order to easily import and export goods without customs clearance delays. UEN activation is a requirement for businesses that intend to engage in import and export activities in Singapore.

If you are a new DHL Express business account customer, the UEN activation should be done from your end. While for an existing customer, you will need to reactivate your UEN, in case you have terminated it. Failure to do so will cause inevitable delays in the permit application. However, activation of Customs Account won’t require any payment of any fees to Singapore Customs.

Once the customers activate the UEN, then DHL can act as a declaring agent on your behalf to help you obtain a customs clearance permit from Singapore Customs to facilitate your import and export shipment clearance. New business account holders can do this by following this link: https://www.customs.gov.sg/businesses/new-traders-and-registration-services/registration-services/activate-customs-account


According to the Association of Banks in Singapore, GIRO is widely used for consumers to pay bills to government agencies and private sector Billing Organizations. GIRO is meant for all inbound shipments for Goods and Services Tax (GST). To prevent any delays due to GST or duty issues, setting up a GIRO with Singapore customs is essential. If you have set up your company’s GIRO, you will have to provide your GIRO letter of approval to DHL’s customs clearance team.

Please note: If businesses don’t have GIRO yet, they need to appoint DHL as their declaring agent and additionally provide Singapore customs DHL UEN - 197700524Z. To help you set up your IBG, follow the information here: https://www.customs.gov.sg/businesses/new-traders-and-registration-services/registration-services/apply-for-inter-bank-giro

Find these customs tips useful? Adhering to these rules will help us in clearing your shipment from customs and also avoid duty and GST issues.

Ready to ship?