Shipping Terms - Customs Import Duty - Import Export Consultant in Delhi
Customs has a language all of its own as well as terminology that can appear a little complicated at times. Our glossary presents some of the more common terms you will come across when shipping dutiable goods internationally.

Ad Valorem
This is a Latin term meaning “according to the value.” All duties and taxes are calculated on the basis of value, so you may see this used quite often.

ATA Carnet
The ATA Carnet is an international Customs document. Issued under the terms of the ATA Convention and the Istanbul Convention, it incorporates an internationally valid guarantee.
The carnet can be used in place of national Customs documents and as security for import duties and taxes. This covers the temporary admission of goods and the transit of goods.
The ATA Carnet can also be accepted to control the temporary export and re-importation of goods. However, in this case, the international guarantee does not apply.

Bonded Goods
These are goods stored in a secure warehouse. While they remain there, they are not liable for any payment of import duty. That is, until the duty is paid or the goods are exported or legally dealt with.

Often refers to customs brokerage, where a third party is used for the clearance of inbound or outbound shipments.

Cargo Manifest
A Cargo Manifest lists the goods carried in a means of transport or in a transport-unit.
The manifest gives the commercial details of the goods, such as:
transport document numbers
consignors and consignees
marks and numbers
number and kind of packages
descriptions and quantities of goods
It may be used in place of the Cargo declaration.

Certificate of Origin
This is a specific document that expressly certifies that the goods to which the certificate relates, originate in a specific country.
This Certificate may also include a declaration by the manufacturer, producer, supplier, exporter or other competent person.

An abbreviation used in some international sales contracts, when the selling price includes all “Costs, Insurance and Freight” for the goods sold.
This means that the seller arranges and pays for all relevant expenses involved in shipping goods – from their point of export to a given point of import.
In trade statistics, “CIF value” means that all figures for imports or exports are calculated on this basis, regardless of the nature of individual transactions


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

Consular Invoice

This is a detailed statement of goods shipped, certified by the consulate of a country. It is required by certain foreign governments that want a tighter control over imports

Customs Declaration

Any statement or action, in any form prescribed or accepted by Customs, giving information or particulars required by Customs.

De Minimis

This is a Latin term and is a shortened version of the expression “de minimis non curat lex” meaning “the law does not care about very small matters.”
It is often considered more efficient to waive very small amounts of duties and taxes rather than collect them.


Electronic Data Interchange – the electronic transmission of data.

Free Zone

An area within a country (a seaport, airport, warehouse or any designated area) regarded as being outside its customs territory.
Importers may therefore bring goods of foreign origin into such areas without paying customs duties and taxes. This is always pending eventual processing, trans-shipment or re-exportation.
Free zones were once numerous and prosperous when tariffs were higher many years ago. Some still exist in capital cities, transport junctions and major seaports, but their number and prominence have declined as tariffs have fallen in recent years.
Free zones may also be known as "free ports," "free warehouses," "free trade zones" and "foreign trade zones."

Harmonized System

The international system published by the World Customs Organization that sets out in a systemized form the goods handled in international trade.
Goods are grouped in Sections, Chapters and sub-Chapters that are governed by rules.


The recognized abbreviation for the International Chamber of Commerce Terms of Sale. These terms were last amended in the year 2010.

Landed Cost

The cost of the imported goods at the port or point of entry into a country, including the cost of freight, insurance and port and dock charges.
All charges occurring after the goods leave the import point are not included.

Phytosanitary Certificate
A certificate issued by a Government agency (usually Agriculture) to satisfy import regulations of foreign countries.
The certificate indicates that a shipment has been inspected and found free from harmful pests and plant diseases.

Preference (or Preferential) Duty

A lower duty rate based on the value of the goods and dependent on the country of origin.

Pro-forma Invoice

An invoice provided by a supplier prior to the shipment of merchandise, informing the buyer of the kinds and quantities of goods to be sent, their value and specifications (weight, size, etc.).


United Nations EDI For Administration, Commerce and Transport.
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Standards are developed and supported by the UN for electronic message (data) interchange on an international level.

What are Duties and Taxes?
Learn the fundamental difference between Duties and Taxes when shipping worldwide and understand if you are always obliged to pay duties and taxes immediately.

Duties calculated
The calculation of Duties depends on the assessable value of a dutiable shipment.
For the purpose of this calculation, dutiable goods are given a classification code that is known as the Harmonized System code.
This system has been assigned by the World Customs Organization and continues to evolve.

Taxation across borders
Taxes are imposed on goods when they are moved across a political boundary (although some free trade zones exist around the world).
Taxes are usually associated with protectionism, the economic policy of restraining trade between nations.
Taxes are usually imposed on imported goods, although at times may also be imposed on exported goods.

Who is responsible for payment?
The payment of Duties and Taxes are typically the responsibility of the receiver.