Declaring shipments improperly can be the source of a lot of confusion for you, our staff and our partners like U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Part of your role as a shipper is to ensure shipment descriptions and values are accurate. 

Why your shipment declarations are important

The information you provide is critical for U.S. and international custom agencies to validate the contents of your shipments. If the information you provide as the shipper is incorrect, vague or false, there can be delays and even fines or penalties. Find all the legal details in our Shipment Compliance Declaration and our Terms of Service.

Insurance Coverage

Improperly declaring shipment details can also impact your insurance claims. Your insurance coverage is based on the value you declare for your shipment. If this value is incorrect, you may be reimbursed for the wrong amount or your claim may be denied as you have not purchased enough insurance to cover your shipment.

Don’t forget that when filing an insurance claim you will need to provide an invoice or other documentation to prove the value of your shipment. There are also some restrictions on the types of items that are insurable.

What to Declare

In addition to your recipient's address and the measurements for your package, we will ask you to declare:

Type of Contents

These are the customs classifications of your items used for the international customs declaration forms for your shipments (e.g. CN22). The options include:

  • Merchandise
  • Documents
  • Gift
  • Returned Goods
  • Sample

Description of Contents

Descriptions such as “craft item,”, "toys", “products,” or “accessories” are considered too vague for customs. This can result in customs inspections delaying your shipments at the border. That’s why your shipment description must account for all items contained in the package and include:

  • Quantities
  • Information about brands (where possible)
  • Whether or not the item was used
  • At least three (3) characters in length e.g. "1 CD"

For example, instead of declaring “clothes and accessories,” a shipment should instead be declared as “1 dress, 1 belt, 3 hair ties.” Or, instead of “Makeup” a shipment should instead be declared as 2 lipsticks, 1 mascara.” 

Instead of “Toys” a shipment should specify exactly the type and kind of toy whether it’s electronic or a doll.  

IMPORTANT: If you use a CSV template to import shipments, ensure the following to prevent errors so that the correct package values and item quantities are declared. 

  • Standard CSV template: all shipment items and their combined value must be entered all in one line. If there are multiple items separate each item with a semicolon (i.e. 5 books; 1 handmade cotton doll) 
  • Advanced CSV template: each of the shipment items must be entered individually (each in a separate line), with their individual declared values and quantities. Entering combined values may create incorrectly overvalued shipments, which may result in delays at the destination country’s customs agency.
All shipment descriptions must be in English as it is the designated language for our international shipping partners.

Prohibited Items

Don’t forget that there are some items you cannot ship with Chit Chats. It is your responsibility to ensure the accuracy of your shipment information and to be compliant with all customs laws. Omitting items from descriptions or using vague descriptions to conceal prohibited items may result in delays, fines or the termination of your Chit Chats account. For all the details on your responsibility, refer to our Shipment Compliance Declaration and Terms of Service.

Retail Value & Currency

With the exception of documents, all items you ship with Chit Chats will have a retail value and you must declare this for your shipments. We cannot accommodate shipments containing unsold items or those being sent for the purpose of valuation (e.g. grading of sports cards or other collectibles).

The retail value you declare should exclude applicable sales taxes and shipping costs; however, you may include sales taxes when filing an insurance claim.

Be mindful of the currency as this is important for both customs and insurance purposes. The insurable value of your shipment is calculated at the time of postage purchase and is reported to the insurer in USD. Additionally, your shipment value may be converted to the destination's currency at the country's daily exchange rate for customs purposes. But remember, U.S. and international shipments cannot exceed $800 USD in retail value and some shipments may require an invoice. Shipments to Canadian addresses cannot exceed $2500 CAD.

Declaring International Shipments

International shipments have very rigid guidelines for customs declarations. It is essential to be as detailed and specific with your descriptions as possible to prevent delays or even having your shipment be refused. 

Each item contained in one international shipment must be outlined with the following details:

  • Quantity
  • Detailed content description
  • Unit retail value
  • Currency

Optional details you can include are:

  • HS codes* (mandatory for USPS International shipments and USPS  military and USPS territories destination)
  • Country of origin

*HS codes are required for USPS international shipments & military addresses using USPS postage. Find useful resources on HS codes on our blog. While HS codes are not mandatory for Chit Chats International Tracked shipments we highly recommend adding this in the available optional field as this is becoming more of a standard requirement. Adding an HS code is beneficial as it does help make the customs process easier and minimize potential delays to your shipment’s transit. 

When creating shipments through your Chit Chats account, during the “Description” step you can click “+Add shipment item” to add new fields for as many items as you need.

When you import your shipments from a connected store, we will pull this information from your item listings through our integration. Be sure to review your descriptions after importing to ensure they are accurate and detailed enough. 

  • For instance, you may sell t-shirts but in your store these are titled as “1 XL, women’s”.
  • Or if your store is having a sale, your items may be listed at a promotional price, for example $0.00, which does not accurately reflect the retail value. 

If you import your shipments using the Chit Chats CSV or our API, you’ll want to follow this format for the description field to ensure we can capture all of the details:

Standard CSV import: 

  • Quantity description, unit value HS code* country of origin* 
  • e.g. 2 greeting cards $10; 6 t-shirts $20
  • e.g. 3 alphabet t-shirts, light blue 15; 1 apples t-shirt, green 15; 2 apples t-shirts, purple 15

*Optional field

To separate each item, make use of the semicolon (;) when entering your description.

New columns in the Advanced CVS template are: 

  • order_id (Mandatory)  
    • The same order ID must be used for each shipment item if there are multiple items in one package. If there is no order id for your shipment, designate a number to associate all items for the same shipment since this is a required field.  
  • Item_quantity 
  • Item_description 
  • Item_unit_value 
  • Item_country_of_origin 
  • Item_hs_code 
    • Minimum 6 digits, no periods required (i.e. 123456 instead of 1234.56) 
    • Only mandatory if shipping with USPS International postage or to a military (APO/DPO) or U.S. territory (i.e. Guam, Hawaii) address   
  • item_sku 

Applying presets to description and value fields upon import is not available for international shipment due to the extra detail required for each item. However, you are able to edit the following upon import:

  • Quantity
  • Description
  • SKU
  • Unit Value (except the currency)
  • HS Code
  • Origin Country

Finally, for some postage types and international destinations like EU countries, you may also be required to provide a customs tax reference number for your shipment. Learn more about DDP postage types.