Customs Declaration: Everything You Need To Know

International Freight Forwarder

Have you thought about how goods move across international borders smoothly? Customs declaration is a key element of this process. 

This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive and accessible explanation of customs declaration, covering the procedures, necessary documents, and best practices to ensure flawless customs compliance.

Understanding customs declaration is essential to avoid delays and additional costs.

  • Understand the definition and importance of customs declaration.
  • Master the steps of the customs declaration.


What is the meaning of customs declaration?

A customs declaration is an official document required by customs authorities when goods cross international borders. It contains detailed information about the nature, value, and origin of the goods, as well as the parties involved in the transaction.

In other words, it serves to inform customs of the contents of shipments and to ensure that all laws and regulations regarding international trade are complied with. The customs declaration is essential for several reasons:

First, it allows the calculation of the duties and taxes applicable to the import or export of goods. 

Next, it helps prevent smuggling and illicit trade by providing a transparent record of goods crossing borders. 

Finally, it ensures compliance with international agreements and local regulations, thus avoiding severe legal sanctions.

From a legal perspective, the customs declaration is governed by several laws and regulations. For example, the Customs Code of the European Union (CC) stipulates that each importer or exporter must provide an accurate and truthful declaration of their goods.

In France, the Customs Code also defines the obligations and responsibilities of the parties involved in the customs clearance process. For more details, you can consult the European Commission's guidelines on customs procedures or the official website of French customs.

Customs declaration process

A clear and detailed procedure can make it easier to declare goods to customs authorities. Here are the major steps to make an effective customs declaration.

Document preparation

The first step is to gather all the necessary documents. Here are the main documents required for a customs declaration:

  1. Commercial Invoice : This document details the commercial transaction, including prices, descriptions of the goods, and terms of sale. Ensure that all information is accurate and complete.
  2. Packing List : This list details the contents of each package. It is essential for customs inspection.
  3. Certificate of Origin (CO) : This document certifies the origin of the goods and can influence the customs duties applied.
  4. Transport document : Depending on the mode of transport used (air, sea, land), this document could be a bill of lading, an air waybill, or a road consignment note.
  5. Export declaration : For exported goods, this document is often required by the customs of the country of origin.

To obtain and correctly complete these documents, consult the resources available on the French customs website or the guidelines of the World Customs Organization (WCO). 

Submission of the declaration

Once all the documents are prepared, the next step is submitting the customs declaration. This process can be carried out in several ways, including:

  1. Online submission : The most common and convenient method is to submit the declaration via online platforms, such as Delta, the online clearance system of French customs. This method allows for quick submission and simplified management of declarations.
  2. Submission by a customs broker : Hiring a licensed professional can facilitate the process, especially for companies dealing with large quantities of goods or complex products.
  3. Physical submission : In some cases, the declaration can still be submitted in person at local customs offices.

You need to respect the submission deadlines to avoid delays or penalties. Generally, the declaration must be completed before the goods arrive at the border.

CN23 Customs declaration

The CN23 customs declaration is a form primarily used for low-value international postal shipments. It provides the necessary information to customs to facilitate the clearance of parcels shipped abroad.

Specifics and usage of CN23

The CN23 declaration is used when the value of the shipped goods exceeds a certain threshold, generally set by local customs authorities. This form is crucial to avoid delays and additional costs during the import or export of goods.

Situations where the CN23 is required include:

  • Postal package shipments between different countries.
  • Low-value commercial shipments.
  • Shipments of gifts or commercial samples.

How to correctly fill out the CN23 form

Filling out the CN23 form requires careful attention to detail to make sure correct customs compliance. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Information about the sender and recipient : the names, full addresses, and contact details of the sender and recipient. Ensure that this information is accurate to avoid any delivery issues.
  2. Description of goods : a detailed description of each item shipped. Mention the quantity, weight, and value of each item. The more precise the description, the better it is for customs.
  3. Value of the goods: the actual value of each item must be declared, indicating the currency used. This information is crucial for calculating customs duties.
  4. Total weight and dimensions of the package : the total weight of the package and its dimensions should be indicated. This helps assess transport costs and applicable taxes.
  5. Reason for the shipment : the reason for the shipment, whether it is a sale, a gift, a sample, etc.
  6. Signature and date : the form must be signed and dated by the sender to validate the information provided.

Specific regulations related to CN23

The CN23 form is covered by international customs regulations. For example, the rules established by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the postal guidelines of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) stipulate specific requirements for postal shipments. 

In France, the Customs Code and guidelines from French Customs provide clear guidelines on the use and submission of the CN23.

By following these steps and adhering to the current regulations, you can ensure a trouble-free CN23 customs declaration, thereby facilitating the customs clearance process for your international shipments. 

FAQ about customs declaration

Whether you are a novice importer or an experienced professional, here you will find clear and precise answers to help you understand and master the crucial aspects of customs declaration. Discover how declarations are made, the role of customs declarants, and the documents needed to ensure flawless compliance.

How to make a customs declaration?

A customs declaration is made by submitting a set of documents to the customs authorities, detailing the imported or exported goods. This process can be done online through platforms like Delta in France or using professional customs declarants.

The shipper must provide accurate information about the nature, value, and origin of the goods, as well as the contact details of the sender and recipient.

What is a customs declarant?

A customs declarant is a licensed professional specialized in handling customs formalities. They are responsible for preparing and submitting customs declarations on behalf of the importer or exporter.

The declarant ensures that all information is correct and in compliance with current regulations. In France, customs declarants must be licensed by the customs authorities and have a thorough knowledge of customs laws.

What does 'declared in customs' mean?

Declared in customs means that the goods have been officially registered with the customs authorities upon their entry or exit from a country.

This process involves submitting a customs declaration, detailing the goods and providing the necessary information for calculating duties and taxes. Once declared, the goods may be inspected and cleared for their final destination.

When should a customs declaration be made?

A customs declaration must be made each time goods cross international borders. For imports, the declaration should be submitted before the goods arrive in the destination country. For exports, it should be made before the shipment of the goods.

Adhering to submission deadlines is crucial to avoid delays and penalties.

What amount should be declared in customs?

The amount to be declared in customs corresponds to the actual value of the goods, including the cost of purchase, transport, and insurance up to the border.

This value is used to calculate the applicable duties and taxes. It is essential to declare the exact amount to avoid compliance issues and potential fines. 

Who is in charge of customs clearance?

Customs clearance is generally performed by the customs declarant or the importer/exporter themselves. In the case of companies, this task is often entrusted to specialized professionals or customs brokers.

The customs clearance process involves the verification and approval of the customs declaration, payment of duties and taxes, and possible inspection of the goods by customs authorities.

Mastery of your customs clearance

By reading this article, you now have a clear and detailed understanding of customs declaration, the necessary documents, and the steps to follow to ensure flawless customs compliance. 

Are you wondering how to optimize your international transportation processes to gain efficiency and reduce costs? Discover additional information and answers to all your questions about customs clearance by consulting our customs services FAQ. You will find a wealth of useful information to successfully navigate the world of customs formalities.


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