What is a Commercial Invoice?
If you are sending your parcel to a destination outside the European Union you must complete a Commercial Invoice. The Commercial Invoice is a Customs declaration that allows your parcel to pass through borders between countries.
Most orders require the Commercial Invoice to be printed, but some are produced electronically. We provide instructions on your Order Confirmation Page as to which applies.
Printer not required
Where international orders pass through the P4D distribution centre, you are only required to produce an electronic version of the Commercial Invoice.
For all other orders you must print SIX copies of the Commercial Invoice.
If a Commercial Invoice is not provided or there are not six copies, the carrier will not take your parcel, or if the Commercial Invoice is not completed in full, your parcel may be stopped at Customs for inspection. This can sometimes result in extremely long delays to delivery if your parcel is eventually approved.
P4D cannot assist with Customs issues. We offer advice on how to prepare your parcel for shipping and we can obtain advice from couriers if you are unsure whether or not your item can be shipped. However, it is your responsibility to check requirements, making sure your goods are suitable for international shipment and that your documents are in order.
How do you know if you need a Commercial Invoice?
When you complete your order with P4D you will arrive at an order confirmation page. Here we let you know which labels and documents you must print ready for collection. You will see the Commercial Invoice listed here as a required document if you need one.
How to generate a Commercial Invoice
If you are required to print a Commercial Invoice, we provide you with a link on your order confirmation page, which takes you to an online form. You'll need to fill out this form to generate a PDF that you can then print. We'll email you a copy of your order confirmation details, which links back to that same page if you need to produce your Commercial Invoice later on.
You must give as much information as you possibly can on your Commercial Invoice and be careful to select the correct Commodity Code.
Attaching Commercial Invoices to your parcel
Your six commercial invoices should ideally be attached to your parcel within one transparent sticky-backed document envelope. If you are not able to use a document envelope we recommend you use a plain standard envelope and tape it firmly to the parcel, leaving it unsealed, so the courier can check your paperwork on collection.?
If you have a more specific question about required documentation contact us for advice and we'll be happy to contact the courier on your behalf if we can't answer the question ourselves.
What is an EORI code?
If you are a business (VAT registered or non VAT registered) and ship outside of the EU (import or export), you must register for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) code. This code identifies you to Customs as being eligible to ship internationally. Without it, your booking may be turned away by the courier.
For UK businesses the format for the EORI code is "GB", followed by your nine digit VAT number, followed by three zeros. If you are non VAT registered, you must still apply for an EORI number. It must be written all in upper case and with no gaps or spaces between the information, eg. GB999999999000. You can find out if you already have a valid EORI number in this format on the European Commission website. You have only one EORI number per legal entity, so every branch of one business will use the same code.
Applying for your EORI code
If you do not have an active EORI code, you can apply for one by downloading a form from the HMRC website and it should take only a few days for you to receive your code. You must let HMRC know if your VAT code changes.
Which CPC code do I use?
The Customs Procedure Code (CPC) on your Commercial Invoice confirms the nature of movement for the goods you are shipping, be this a permanent or temporary export or an import. Without it, your order may be held at Customs resulting in significant delay.
Permanent and temporary export CPC
Where your export is permanent, the most common CPC code used is 10 00 001. You will find a list of other CPC codes for both permanent and temporary export in the download PDF below. Please check your code selection carefully.
Export CPCs list (valid at Nov 2013)
Where your import is of non-community goods or for home use, the most common CPC code used is 40 00 *** with many sub categories after 40 00 000. You will find a list of CPC codes for import in the download PDF below. Please check your code selection carefully.
Import CPCs list (valid at Nov 2013)
Help from HMRC
Visit the HMRC website or call the Excise and Customs Helpline on 0845 010 9000 to determine the correct CPC code.
Which Commodity Code do I use?
The Commodity Code (or Tariff Code - these are the same thing) on your Commercial Invoice confirms what the goods are that you are shipping. Couriers require a detailed description of the items you are sending.
The Commodity Code is a classification code used by Customs and so we recommended you always supply one to avoid any delay between borders - if the Commodity Code is requested, your goods will not pass through Customs until it is provided. If you have supplied a Commercial Invoice with your shipment, but a required classification code is missing, your order will be held until an amended Commercial Invoice showing this is received.
There are hundreds of classification codes. If you don't have one, you'll find more information on the GOV website. The classifications are very specific and must be accurate, so search thoroughly for descriptions.
You can email the HMRC Tariff Classification Service on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do documents need a Commercial Invoice?
You can send your documents to any country in the world at a reduced price with P4D and your documents won't be subject to any Customs delays, which means they'll get there faster and without delay. With our easy booking system you can get a quote in seconds and are not required to complete a Commercial Invoice.
You must package your documents with robust protection. Make sure they are packed in a cardboard envelope, rather than a paper one, so that they can withstand transportation within a large courier network: How goods are handled in transit. Measure the dimensions for your envelope in the same way as you would a parcel, using 1cm for anything less than 1cm in size: How to measure a parcel.
You can use our document service to send documents within the UK and abroad. The size and weight restrictions are listed in the quote box at the time of booking.
What extra paperwork do I need for Iran?
If you are shipping goods to Iran, extra sanctions are in place and you must include extra paperwork with your Commercial Invoice in the form of a Customer Statement. This is to satisfy the courier on security.
The Statement must be completed, signed, scanned, and then printed on your company letterhead. Absence of this statement frequently means bookings are turned away by the courier.
Customer Statement for Iran
Include this form with your Commercial Invoice, attached to your goods.
What is Customs?
Customs is a government agency overseeing all shipments between borders for both security and economical reasons (where tax is to be paid). Import and export restrictions for each country are different and the rules change over time.
There are no customs duties between EU countries.
Our list of prohibited items is correct at the time of writing and new threats or regulations are added promptly.
How does Customs work?
Customs is a small term for a very large and complicated, global network. It is far too complex for Customs to release a straightforward and definitive guide to manoeuvring every item through the complexities of their system because this would need to cover thousands of different items passing through every country. It would also mean the restrictions are then much easier to manipulate. Customs regulations will also change over time and will differ between countries.
We provide a full list of known prohibited items on our website.
Although P4D can offer advice based on our own experience, we cannot confirm that any shipment will or will not pass smoothly through Customs and you must check the stipulations for the country you are shipping to before you place your booking.
Paperwork for non-prohibited items
You must complete a Commercial Invoice for international shipments and related information if necessary. Shipping within the European Union is not classed as international, so there are no taxes to pay and a Commercial Invoice is not necessary.
If you have an unusual item to send we are more than happy to check the specific judgement on that item with the courier you wish to send it with. Email our Customer Service team with your inquiry.
HM Revenue & Customs
Detailed advice on shipping internationally can be found on the HMRC website under Import and Export.
How do I check Customs restrictions for my destination?
Before arranging a shipment to an international destination from the UK you should check the regulations on any item you wish to send to make sure it is not prohibited.
Restrictions by country
Providing your item is not on the prohibited list you can then check the regulations specific to the item you are sending and the country you wish to ship it to. Parcelforce offers an online service for checking restrictions by country. However, different couriers will have different regulations and it is your responsibility as the sender to make sure you only ship items that are allowed.
Will there be any extra charges?
When you book an international delivery you are paying for the postage charge only. It is your responsibility to check whether taxes, duties or other Customs charges apply to your shipment and to arrange payment of this.
You can check whether or not taxes or duties are owed when you check the commodity code for your shipment, or by speaking to the Consulate of the destination country. Unfortunately, we have no control over any Customs queries or charges that may arise and these are applied directly by the authorities in the overseas country. We can offer advice if asked, but we are not a point of authority.
If there are subsequent Customs taxes, duties or other charges to be made by Customs we will pass these onto the receiver who is responsible for paying these charges. If the receiver refuses to pay the charge, it is passed onto the sender wherever possible. Charges vary between countries and many will impose a charge for destroying the parcel if taxes are not paid.
In the event of a parcel being returned to the sender for any reason from outside the UK, the charge will be the appropriate import rate for the shipment. This is likely to be higher than the price paid to export the goods.
For shipments going outside the European Union a Commercial Invoice with Commodity Code is required. Failure to provide this document, or an incomplete or inaccurate document will result in your goods being delayed and possibly returned at the sender's expense.
Disputes regarding Customs charges must be raised with the issuing authority. We have no direct link to or association with in-country Customs authorities and have no power to challenge their decisions.
European Union (EU)
Are EU countries exempt from documentation and Customs?
You might be surprised to learn that sending your parcels to countries within the European Union (EU) is just as easy as sending your parcels to somewhere else in the UK. There is no extra paperwork to send parcels to the EU, your parcel does not need to pass through Customs and therefore there are no additional delays for parcels destined for the EU.
Parcels going to European countries not part of the EU are subject to Customs inspection and depending on what your parcel contains, where it's going to and where it's come from (business or non-business) it may be stopped for inspection. Customs delays can sometimes be extensive. Therefore, if you do ship internationally as a business, make sure you consider Customs and factor potential problems in to your Terms & Conditions. Also determine whether or not it's worth shipping outside the EU, depending on what you sell.
Which countries are in the EU?
List of EU countries
You'll find an up to date list of EU countries on the europa.eu website. Here is the list of EU countries, which is correct at the time of writing:
Capital: Luxembourg City
If the list has changed since we last updated this page, you can email to let us know.
Can I ship to remote locations?
When sending a parcel abroad to a destination that is not a major town or city, or importing from this destination, please be aware that the location could be classified as a Remote Area Location.
"Remote" can be defined as an island, highlands, or a postcode or zip code that is difficult to reach. If you are concerned that a location in your collection or delivery address may be classified as remote, we strongly advise that you contact us with details of the address before placing your order and we will contact the courier on your behalf to double check.
Surcharges and delays
If a destination is classified as remote, the delivery time may be extended due to the extra distance needed to be travelled by the courier. They may also apply a surcharge per shipment to cover this extra cost, so we much prefer you check first before incurring any unwanted charges.
Will the courier deliver on international Public Holidays?
Couriers do not routinely collect or deliver on Public Holidays, although we cannot be an authority on every Public Holiday in every country. If your delivery is urgent, we recommend you allow plenty of time for delivery or check the holiday listings for the destination country before shipping. We are more than happy to call a courier on your behalf for detailed delivery times where required.
You'll find a list of international holidays on the Holidays worldwide website, but as this is an external website we take no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.
Have we missed something important? Email us with your question, so we can add it to the list.