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Seller Alert: Change to USPS Customs Form Is Coming

Change to USPS Customs Form Is Coming

In March, online sellers will have to be more specific when filling out customs forms on packages they send to Europe, according to the USPS. Noncompliance could result in fines and penalties as well as delivery delays.

The reason: “Effective March 1, 2023, new European Union (EU) regulations will go into effect, requiring a Harmonized System (HS) tariff code on customs forms (CN22 and CN 23) and Advance Electronic Data (AED), for all EU-bound goods,” according to the US Postal Service.

The new regulation directly impacts online sellers who ship to Europe using the Postal Service. The USPS Industry Alert issued on November 7th explained:

“Per the EU, vague item descriptions on customs forms such as “gifts,” “clothing,” “electronics,” and even “none” will no longer be considered an acceptable description.” (“Gifts” may be a trigger word to some sellers since international customers often demand marketplace sellers lie on customs forms to indicate the item is a gift in an attempt to avoid paying customs duties and taxes.)

The USPS referred shippers to the EU’s guidance on acceptable terms on the Europa.eu website and provided its own chart with examples that showed, for example, “Clothes” would be unacceptable, while “Men’s cotton shirts, lingerie, girls’ leather vests, boys’ denim jackets” would be acceptable descriptions.

USPS EU Customs Form Rules

The USPS said the new regulatory changes were designed to “increase accountability, efficiency, and decrease the risk of fraud and security threats.”

By complying with this new mandate, customers will:

  • Avoid fines and penalties associated with noncompliance.
  • Reduce safety and security risks.
  • Help ensure timely and efficient delivery to the EU.
  • Prevent customs delays and/or return of non-compliant mail items.
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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “Seller Alert: Change to USPS Customs Form Is Coming”

  1. eBay should publish lists of HS codes and “acceptable” terminology applicable to each category.

  2. We’ve been doing this for at least two years on all exports to the EU, Japan and North America so it seems that USPS is behind the ball on this. Pretty sure the Postal Union mentioned need for HS on customs forms years ago.

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