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How to complete an export customs declaration form when posting goods abroad

Since Brexit took place on 31st December 2021, the amount of paperwork required when importing and exporting goods has increased. When you send a shipment overseas, a customs declaration is now needed when shipping to the EU or Northern Ireland.

These rules will apply to anyone sending goods abroad, including small businesses that may need to post individual shipments to buyers based elsewhere in the world.

If you send something to a country outside of Great Britain, it is essential to submit your customs declaration accurately and thoroughly. This will prevent your products from being delayed or rejected at border control, leading to disruption for your business and unsatisfied customers.

In this guide, we have explained exactly how to fill out a customs declaration form so you can ensure you comply with trade rules and efficiently post goods abroad.

How do I access customs declaration forms?

If you are a regular exporter or importer and are a large company, you may use the CHIEF system to handle your customs documentation and other bureaucratic requirements. If you are doing this, you need to have an account set up and ensure your staff members are trained on using the software. Alternatively, you may appoint an external resource to deal with customs on your behalf, such as a freight forwarder or a customs agent.

If you do not use the CHIEF system but still need to export goods abroad via post, such as small businesses fulfilling online sales, you can access customs declaration forms from the Royal Mail or use an external resource. The forms can be downloaded online. Other delivery and haulage providers may also offer downloadable forms, so it is worth checking with the carrier you will be using.

What form do I need?

There are two main types of form if you are posting goods abroad. These are the CN22 (for shipments under £270) and CN23 (for goods totalling over £270). You need to make sure you select the right one to submit to avoid disrupting the delivery process.

When filling in a CN22 or CN23 form, you need to ensure you have both digital and physical versions under the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) regulations and UK and EU legislation.

There is also a CP72 form, which needs to be used if you are sending goods via Parcelforce. This service may be more economical than normal postal services for larger parcels. This form requires similar information to the CN23 version.

Finally, there may be specific forms required if you send goods that must undergo a special procedure or are controlled You can find out more about what goods this applies to and download the relevant forms on the government website.

What do I include on the form?

The first thing to remember when filling in a customs declaration form is that it must be done in block capitals to be processed electronically. The form you use should make it clear what information should be inputted and where.

Regardless of whether you are using a CN22 or CN23 form, there will be a few things you need to include. An obvious example is the sender’s name and address so you can ensure it reaches the right destination.

You will also have to detail the goods you are exporting. This includes providing the category of the included products, such as gifts, samples, sale of goods, returned goods or other (you must specify next to the ‘other’ choice). If you are sending goods that a customer has bought, it will likely fall into the ‘sale of goods’ category.

Next, you need to provide a description of the contents. Essentially, you will list what is included in the package, as well as the quantity of each item, weight and value in GBP. You must be honest and accurate when describing your goods, as if something is found to be present that you haven’t declared, it could lead to your package being delay, returned or even destroyed.

Both forms will ask you to input the commodity code for the destination you are sending to. you’re sending more than one commodity, make sure you list the various codes in the same order as you list the items in the ‘quantity’ and ‘detailed description of contents’ fields.

You will also need to include your EORI number and/or your business’s VAT registration in the appropriate section to ensure you are charged the proper amount of VAT.

On the CN23 form only, you will need to provide the postage paid for your shipment and specify any other charges, such as insurance. You will also need to give details if the goods are subject to quarantine or any other restrictions and information about any licences, invoices or certificates that have been supplied alongside the products.

Finally, on all forms, you will need to sign and date at the bottom. This will confirm your liability for the products as they undergo delivery and customs.

What do I do with the form when finished?

When you download forms, they will usually come with instructions on affixing them to the parcel. In most cases, they should be placed on the front of the packaging. If you put the form inside instead, you must show something outside indicating a customs declaration is inside.

You will also need to submit an electronic version to pre-notify customs. If you’re using an untracked service, you need to ensure that the form has a barcode that can be scanned to act as your customs declaration submission. If you are using a tracked service, you do not need a barcode.

Conclusion

With the number of customs declarations needed to be submitted to businesses set to increase dramatically, it is essential you know the requirements and fill out every declaration form correctly.

By understanding the process, you can ensure that your goods reach your overseas customers with minimal delay or disruption.

If you need support in how your business can continue to trade with the EU and beyond, even after Brexit, we can help.

Our team of advisors can take you through many critical areas, including customs, supply chain, rules of origin, conformity marking and more.

The costs of our advice can also be covered using the SME Brexit Support Fund.