Declared Value: CIF, and Valuation for international shipping

When shipping internationally, a common question we get is "what value should we declare." The value declaration is, along the the H.S. classification, the key element of the import process and duty assessment. Over declarations result in needless costs and under-declaration of values can result in significant fines and legal actions.

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When sending international shipments, it is important to understand the value that apply to your international shipment.

In this post, we review the key concepts to understand for declaring a value for your international shipment.

  • Transaction value and other valuation methods
  • Valuation for online orders: Bulk wholesale versus single entry retail
  • Cost and process advantages: Traditional retail logistics versus direct online import

The value of imports is one of the elements for assessment of duty.

The three elements to determining the duty rate:

  1. Value for the Goods
  2. Origin of the Goods
  3. Customs tariff classification (Read more about HS Codes)

Read about new rules regarding declared value for non-resident importers to Canada.

Disclaimer: The information in this post and all Jet Worldwide content is for general information only

For importing to most countries, the most useful value is the “transaction value.”

The transaction value is the amount paid for the items. But, for many of the international shipments, there is often not an actual transaction value.

Not having a clear transaction value occurs when free commercial samples or warranty items are ship. When there is, in fact, no financial transaction. At Jet Worldwide, our customers often send commercial samples or warranty replacement parts where there is not an actual transaction value.

Before sending your international shipments, we advise our customers to consult with the receiver on which value to declare as valuation is most important to import processes.

Although the broad World Customs Organization (WCO) guidelines apply in most countries, there can be significant differences.

Transaction value can include items not on the commercial invoice

The transaction value can include items not necessarily on the commercial invoice. To the USA, for example, US customs also considers the following items as part of the transaction value:

  • The packing costs payable by the buyer
  • Any selling commission payable by the buyer
  • The value, apportioning as appropriate, of any assist
  • Any royalty or license fees as a condition of the sale
  • The proceeds of any subsequent resale, disposal, or use that accrue to the seller

Note that US customs does not consider transport costs as part of the transaction value.

Useful Video: Declaring a Value for Shipping

Download accompanying PDF

Consignment Value For Import of Online Orders

The value to determine the admissibility under duty free duty free thresholds for online orders is the value of the total consignment, not individual orders.

Common Duty Free Thresholds for Online Orders

  • $800 USD for shipments to the USA
  • $150 CAD for imports that ship to Canada from the USA and Mexico
  • $20 CAD for imports to Canada from other than USA and Mexico
  • €150 (euros) for online orders imported to European Union Countries
  • £135 (UK pounds) for online orders to the UK
  • $117 USD for imports to Mexico

It is important to note that value add tax is most often applicable even if the goods otherwise qualify for duty free import. Useful information regarding duty free low value thresholds.

What is Intrinsic value?

The definition of “intrinsic value” refers to the price of the goods themselves when sold for export. It excludes transport and insurance costs, unless they are inclusive in the price. If price includes shipping and insurance it must be separately indicated on the invoice. For goods of a non-commercial nature, the price which for payment for the goods themselves.

Consignment versus Goods

The the term “consignment” refers that ship together from a single consignor to a single consignee. A consignment is covered by the same transport waybill and tracking number.

Read about value for duty for non-resident importers to Canada.

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Valuation method

The most common method of determining the correct value declaration is to use the "transaction value:"

The transaction value is the price actually paid or payable for the goods when sold for export to the country of importation, with certain adjustments.

The adjustments can include such things as the cost of transportation and insurance. If, for example, you sold an item for $1,000 and cost of transportation and insurance was $90, the transaction value would be $1,090.

Most countries accept the transaction value as the appropriate amount to declare upon import.

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Alternatives to using the Transaction Value for international shipments:

Other customs value assessment are possible when the transaction value is not possible. Alternative valuation methods include:

  • The transaction value of identical goods
  • The transaction value of similar goods
  • The deductive value method
  • The compute value method
  • The fall-back method

International Resources: Rules for declaring a value

Application of the above alternative valuation methods are in hierarchical order.

Deductive Value

Basically, deductive value is the resale price after import with deductions for certain items. The deductive  generally starts with a unit price. From this point certain additions to and deductions will apply from that price.

Computed Value

Computed value consists of the sum of the materials and processing costs, plus packing, profit and general expenses

Fall Back Method

If none of the previous methods apply directly, the value with derive from one of the five previous methods with adjustments.

When declaring a value for your international shipment, the transaction value is mostly just common sense. The following two methods (value of identical or similar goods) are self explanatory.

Deductive, computation and fall-back methods of valuation can get technical. Their implementation is mostly in the case of high value disputes. Useful concepts in determining the value include inherent value, intrinsic value and historic value.

For high values and specific commodities get advice from logistics professionals. Consult with customs authorities. Get a ruling on value prior to importing the goods.

Useful "How to Ship" Videos

What is CIF Value?

CIF value meaning

The CIF value is the value of the goods plus shipping and insurance. This can also mean the landed costs or value for duty

Most customs authorities consider the "CIF value" as the value for duty. Customs considers the cost of transport and insurance as also dutiable. The term CIF value is often the value for duty .

CIF value graphic

For example: if the transportation and insurance cost to ship goods worth $1,000 are $200, the CIF value is $1,200. The duty is then based on $1,200, not $1,000.

For courier and postal shipments, the exact transport cost is often unknown. When assessing the transport value for parcel imports, most customs applies a standard cost per kg.

Does US customs consider CIF value?

US Customs considers only the cost of the goods as the value for duty.  Additional items to include in the cost of goods include: 

  • The packing costs incurred by the buyer
  • Any selling commission incurred by the buyer
  • The value, apportioned as appropriate, of any assist
  • Any royalty or license fees as a condition of the sale
  • The proceeds of any subsequent resale, disposal, or use that accrue to the seller

Incoterms® and Valuation for Duty

Duty costs of the goods can calculate differently against a specific Incoterm value. Some customs calculate duty on the CIF value. Other countries calculate duty as a percentage of the FOB value of the goods. Shipping terms define the points at which costs and risks pass between the seller and buyer. Useful information regarding shipping terms.

Correct declaration of value for Non-Resident Imports to Canada

In general, the correct value for duty is the transaction value to the purchaser in Canada. It is not the value between foreign entities.

Read more about value declaration for non-resident importers to Canada.

Correct declaration for related parties

Inter-company transactions can complicate the idea of a transaction value. Such pricing and invoicing affect both import and tax processes.

Wholesale bulk import versus Retail online transaction

Online orders are usually at a disadvantage when it comes to duty assessment. Be careful and make sure you are assigning the correct value. The duty free thresholds can provide some benefit for online orders.

For example: An import of thousands of shirts with a wholesale value of $5 per shirt will be assessed on that transaction value. The same shirt sold retail online for $30 will be assessed the same duty rate but on higher transaction price.

Traditional retail logistics (TRL) flow versus Direct Online Shipping (DOS)

International online merchants parcel logistics considerations include a variety of factors:

  • Warehousing cost in country of destination versus direct online orders. Advantage: DOS
  • Ocean versus direct air freight. Advantage: TRL
  • Speed to market and reactivity to market trends: Advantage: DOS
  • Duty free entry for low value (e.g. Section 321 to USA). Advantage: DOS
  • Duty assessment on wholesale versus retail value. Advantage: TRL

Other Helpful Resources:

delivery duty paid graphic image

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Canada freight forwarders graphic image

customs brokers graphic vector image

ocean versus air graphic


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