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Essential Documents and Taxes for International Shipping


Shipping goods internationally can be a complex process, especially when it comes to dealing with documentation and taxes. For businesses in India looking to expand their reach globally, understanding the intricacies of international shipping is crucial. 

In this blog post, we will demystify international shipping documentation and taxes, providing valuable insights for shipping from India.

Export Documentation

Exporting goods from India requires certain documentation to comply with international trade regulations. Here are the key documents you need to be familiar with:

  1. Commercial Invoice

A commercial invoice is a crucial document that provides details about the goods being shipped, including the description, quantity, price, and terms of sale. It serves as proof of the transaction and is used for customs clearance and calculating import duties.

  1. Packing List

A packing list outlines the contents of each package or container being shipped. It includes information such as item names, quantities, and packaging details. This document helps customs officials verify the shipment’s contents.

  1. Bill of Lading (B/L)

The bill of lading is a legal document issued by the shipping carrier or freight forwarder. It serves as evidence of the contract of carriage and receipt of goods. There are different types of bills of lading, including negotiable and non-negotiable, depending on the specific requirements of the shipment.

  1. Shipping Bill

A shipping bill is a customs document required for exporting goods from India. It contains information such as exporter details, buyer details, itemized list of goods, and details of the port of loading and destination. The shipping bill is filed with the customs authorities for processing and clearance.

  1. Certificate of Origin

The certificate of origin is a document that certifies the country where the goods originated. It is required to determine the applicability of preferential tariffs or trade agreements. The exporter or a relevant authority issues this document, providing evidence of the product’s origin.

Import Documentation

When importing goods into India, specific documentation is required to comply with customs regulations. Here are the essential import documents:

  1. Bill of Entry

A bill of entry is a customs document that must be filed when goods arrive in India. It contains information about the imported goods, such as their description, value, quantity, and classification under customs tariff codes. The bill of entry is used for assessment of customs duties and clearance.

  1. Import License

Certain products require an import license to be imported into India. The Importer-Exporter Code (IEC) issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) is usually sufficient for most goods. However, goods such as firearms, drugs, and hazardous materials may require additional licenses or permits.

  1. Insurance Certificate

While not mandatory, it is recommended to have an insurance certificate to protect against any potential loss or damage during transit. This document provides coverage for the goods being imported and ensures compensation in case of unforeseen circumstances.

  1. Letter of Credit (L/C)

A letter of credit is a financial document issued by a bank on behalf of the buyer, guaranteeing payment to the seller upon fulfillment of certain conditions. It provides security to both parties involved in the transaction and helps facilitate smooth international trade.

Taxes and Duties

Understanding the tax and duty implications of international shipping is vital for businesses in India exporting goods to other countries. Here are the key taxes and duties to consider:

  1. Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST is an indirect tax levied on the supply of goods and services in India. When exporting goods from India, GST is generally not applicable as exports are considered zero-rated supplies. However, it is important to maintain proper documentation and evidence of export to ensure exemption from GST.

  1. Customs Duty in Destination Country

When exporting goods to another country, the destination country may impose customs duties or import taxes on the imported goods. The customs duty rates vary depending on the nature of the goods, their value, and the customs regulations of the destination country. 

It is crucial to research and understand the customs duty requirements of the specific country you are exporting to, as these costs may be borne by the importer or affect the pricing and competitiveness of your products.

  1. Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Destination Country

In addition to customs duties, the destination country may impose Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) on imported goods. These taxes are usually based on the customs value of the goods and are levied at the point of entry. 

The rates and regulations vary from country to country, so it is important to be aware of the applicable VAT or GST rates and compliance requirements in the destination market.

  1. Export Tariffs or Restrictions in Destination Country

Certain countries may impose export tariffs or restrictions on specific goods to regulate trade or protect domestic industries. It is essential to research and understand any export tariffs or restrictions that may apply to the goods you are exporting. This information can be obtained from the destination country’s customs or trade authorities to ensure compliance and avoid any unforeseen barriers.


When exporting goods from India, understanding the taxes and duties involved is crucial for successful international trade. While GST generally does not apply to exports, it is important to comply with the customs duties, VAT or GST, and any export tariffs or restrictions imposed by the destination country.

Thorough research and preparation are essential to ensure compliance with the customs regulations of the destination country and to accurately calculate the landed costs of your exported goods. Collaborating with customs experts, freight forwarders, or trade consultants can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the export process.

By demystifying the tax and duty requirements when exporting from India, businesses can now navigate the international shipping process with confidence. Expanding into global markets becomes more accessible, enabling businesses to tap into new opportunities, reach a broader customer base, and establish themselves as competitive players in the global marketplace.

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