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Shipping Internationally: 5 Things to Consider

For small businesses, shipping internationally can be a great way to expand your business, make more money and increase your client base. However, it can also be a seriously big headache. Here are five things you need to consider when shipping internationally.

#1: Taxes and Tariffs.

Tariffs are taxes levied by the government on imported goods. Every country has different rules and regulations regarding tariffs, so make sure that you do your research. You have to know also what is allowed and what is not allowed to be shipped to each country. It is your responsibility to know these things, so make sure you are doing your part to research and know the proper taxes and tariffs for each country that you are shipping to.  For detailed tariff and tax information for certain countries, this is a great resource.

"I did not realize there were a number of factors that come into play with sea freight that don't in overland freight," Dane Platt,  Dixon Golf's chief operating officer.  "This meant that our goods would arrive in China without having any of the costs of duties and taxes included," Platt says. "I was responsible for paying them. The duties and taxes ended up adding more than 30 percent to the cost of the material."

#2: Customs

Customs can sometimes be a huge roadblock and a huge issue when shipping internationally. The most important thing to remember when filling out a customs form is to NEVER mark an item you sold as a "gift". This can lead to big fines. Each customs form has to be filled out with country of origin information, as well as a description of the contents and an estimated value. Making sure your customs formed are filled out accurately and correctly can go a long way towards ensuring that your package gets where it is supposed to go. If you need a little bit of guidance on filling out customs forms, this is a great resource.

#3: Shipping Costs

Shipping costs can also sometimes be one of the most substantial problems when it comes to shipping internationally. Sometimes it can cost as much as the cost of the product, or even more, to ship it internationally. Sometimes a product won't be able to make it via ground shipping, and you'll have to turn to air shipping or even shipping by sea. These costs can be considerably higher than what you are used to. You have to make sure that you take those costs into consideration, and charge accordingly for them. Don't worry about scaring off your customers, though. Chances are if they are buying internationally, they already know what to expect when it comes to high shipping costs. For even more tips to help you figure out international shipping, check out this article.

#4: Addresses

While it might seem obvious, having the correct address is an important part of overseas shipping. One of the biggest hurdles? Zip codes. Some foreign countries have different zip codes that are not always 5 digits, and some computer systems are not set up to handle these different zip codes. It's important to always make sure you have the right addresses before sending.  Addressing international packages can be a bit overwhelming, since the addresses might look different than what you are used to. The following link has some great samples as well as tips for addressing your international packages the right way.

#5: Returns

It might not be feasible for you to offer returns on items that you shipped overseas. Sometimes the tariffs and taxes that you will have to pay for returns might be too much. If this is the case, make sure that you are upfront with your customers about this. Make sure that you have a plan for returns in place so that you can let everyone know. As you can see, internationally shipping doesn't have to be scary, and it can really increase your profits as well!  If you keep all of the above things in mind, international shipping can be a breeze! 
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