Customs Issues


Nothing will sour your international customers’ post-purchase experience quite like having their packages held by customs pursuant to some confusing bureaucratic red tape. We’re here to help make sure your international shipments are delivered successfully. Packages may be held up in customs for a number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The recipient refuses to pay duties & taxes

  • The destination country requires that the recipient grant Power of Attorney 

  • The destination country requires a Letter of Informal Entry

  • The carrier is unable to contact the recipient 

What happens when packages are held at customs?

1) The carrier will contact us

The carrier will send us an email with the tracking number and the reason the package is being held in customs. Occasionally, if a form is required, they’ll attach a blank one. They will also provide a deadline for receiving the required information to get the package through customs, after which time they will either destroy the package or ship it back to us. Here is an example of a package being held in Turkey:

2) We will reach out to you right away

We hate seeing packages held in customs, or worse, abandoned or destroyed. We’ll contact you right away and let you know what information is needed. In almost all cases, the carrier will require some action on the part of the recipient (your customer). If the carrier has provided us with a form to fill out, we will pass that along to you. If we have a phone number or email address that the recipient can use to resolve the issue, we’ll pass that along as well. 

3) We ask that you contact your customer 

The best course of action is to get in touch with the recipient and let them know what is needed to get their package through customs. Please note: in most cases, we do not have the power to resolve customs issues - this power lies with the recipient. 

4) We will follow up with you if necessary 

If we don’t hear back from you within 48 hours, we’ll email you again and remind you that your customer has a package stuck in customs. If we don’t hear back within 3 business days, we will assume that the issue has been resolved, and take no further action. We will not request packages be returned to us without consent from you, the seller.


Can you just take care of it for me?

We really don’t like saying the word “no.” Unfortunately, we do not have the power to resolve most customs issues, such as:

  • granting power of attorney

  • providing recipient’s ID and signature

  • paying additional taxes levied by the destination country.

These can only be resolved by the recipient. We’re happy to help where we can! We have contacts within our carrier network who may be able to answer specific questions regarding customs clearance. Ping us at and we’ll do our best to find answers for you!


Can we label everything as a “gift” to avoid paying D&T?

Misrepresenting the value or contents of your shipments (for example, misdeclaring a shipment as a “gift” or “sample”) in order to avoid duties and taxes is illegal. If you’re caught, you can be slapped with fines and penalties, seizure of merchandise, or even revocation of import/export privileges.


Can Ship Essential declare a lower value so the D&T are lower?

We will declare the value that your customer pays. We will not modify this amount for any reason, as this may jeopardize our business. Customs fraud can result in revocation of import/export privileges.


What happens if I can’t get in touch with the customer?

If you like, we can recall the package and have it shipped back to our warehouse. We will let you know the estimated shipping cost, which can sometimes amount to more than the value of the goods themselves. If the carrier’s deadline for resolution passes without an answer, they will consider the package abandoned and destroy it. We will not recall a package without your consent, however carriers may decide to return certain shipments which could incur a shipping cost. 


What can I do to make sure we don’t run into snags at customs?

There are several things you can do to ensure that your international customers have a positive post-purchase experience:

  • Make sure that all of your SKUs have HS codes and Country of Origin information. You cannot successfully ship internationally without this information inputted for each SKU. 

  • Use a service that will accurately calculate the duties and taxes that must be paid by the customer at checkout. If you need suggestions, we’re here to help. Just reach out to Please note: many services will only provide estimated duties and taxes at checkout. If you want to allow customers to fully pay D&T at checkout, make sure the service you use is able to calculate the actual cost, not just estimate it. 

  • If you choose not to use a service that allows customers to pay accurate D&T at checkout, be clear with them about the possibility of additional duties and taxes. Every country has a different system for calculating D&T, and some will impose additional taxes upon entry. We have seen many packages abandoned at customs because the recipients were surprised that they had to pay additional taxes. 

  • Brush up on Landed Cost, and how each of the countries you ship to calculate it.