Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2012-2015
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I’ve heard this question many times unfortunately the answer folks get is rarely accurate. The misunderstandings are sometimes perpetuated by postal clerks, so going to the post office for answers is not always more helpful than asking in forums.
The short answer is:
“potentially dutiable contents”.
It doesn’t matter:
- how light or heavy it is,
- how big or small,
- if it is a gift or something you sold,
- what mail service level or company you send it through.
If there is something that might require either duty or taxes (like sales tax) to be paid on it, it needs a form. Personally, I don’t know which goods are charged tax in different countries, so all our international packages get customs forms. Plus it can speed the way through customs if a package does get stopped (and an enclosure with the price & buyer info will help too).
You can see that answer directly on the US Postal Service website and be confident you have the right answer–the key is not to look just at the chart, but also the fine print below it. The chart:
The fine print:
In both of the above options, the important point is about potentially dutiable contents–if the package has any, then it should have a customs form. The package should also have something that confirms the value & purchaser inside the package (like a receipt) in case customs inspects it.
The chart page above has sections that tell you which customs form you need based on:
- type of mail service you are using (First Class International, Priority Mail International, etc.), and
- the declared value of the items in the package (while some countries also tax the shipping cost, the customs form value doesn’t include postage–so don’t add that in).
If you are having trouble seeing where it says you need a customs form, these images have those parts highlighted in yellow for First Class International and Priority Mail International:
|First Class International
||Priority Mail International
So the only packages that can travel internationally without a customs form are shipped First Class International and are either:
• Under 16 oz and have no potentially dutiable contents,
• Over 16 oz, have no potentially dutiable contents and are shipped via ‘known mailer”.
If you’re looking for more details on custom form use & requirements see here:
If you are looking to print First Class International labels without a paid subscription service, check out the following post–the customs form gets printed right on the label automatically too:
Print Labels From Your Computer
|How to handle a package with a customs form:|
Handwritten customs form = present to a clerk
Electronically submitted customs form:
Under 13 oz with only postage stamps = drop in any box
|For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here: