If you trade internationally, you will have to comply with additional documentary requirements to those you used for domestic trade. Exactly what those documents are will depend upon:

  • Whether you are importing or exporting.
  • The nature of the goods or services being traded (and what % of the finished goods originated in the UK).
  • The country of your trading partner.

If in doubt as to which documents you need, see:

The Importance of IncoTerms:

To facilitate commerce around the world, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) publishes a set of Incoterms, officially known as international commercial terms. Globally recognized, Incoterms prevent confusion in foreign trade contracts by clarifying the obligations of buyers and sellers. Parties involved in domestic and international trade commonly use them as a kind of shorthand to help understand one another and the exact terms of their business arrangements. Some Incoterms apply to any means of transportation; others apply strictly to transportation across water.

Therefore, understanding these terms is fundamental to reading, drafting and entering into international trade documentation.


In this section, we also provide links and information regarding:

  • Customs Clearance.
  • Export\Import Documentation.
  • Product Codes.
  • Product Packaging & Labelling.

If you are importing or exporting you may need assistance with customs clearance. As indicated in the Introduction to this section, Customs Brokers can provide all the information and services you need to cover your import\export customs clearance requirements – so you don’t have to worry about this.

However, you may also consider approaching ChamberCustoms, the customs clearance agent, training and advisory service delivered through Chambers of Commerce across the UK. ChamberCustoms are different from other customs broker services by harnessing the reach, expertise and knowledge of the British Chambers of Commerce network to offer an unbeatably fast, reliable and compliant service.

ChamberCustoms is the only customs broker with direct links to all air, sea and land port terminals in the UK.

Chamber Customs offers three key services:

  1. Customs Broking: - Customs Clearing Agent Services. ChamberCustoms offers an HMRC compliant service that you can trust. If you would like to save time and resources, outsourcing your customs declarations and administration to a customs agent or customs broker like ChamberCustoms, is easy. They can simplify this process for you, filing your customs declaration forms and additional paperwork on behalf of your business, ensuring you are HMRC compliant. See the video for an outline of the customs broking services offered.
  2. Customs Training: - If you prefer to train your staff to deal with the demand for HMRC compliant-led services, ChamberCustoms can also help. For a description of the training courses offered, click here. If you would like a quote for training courses, click here.
  3. Customs Advice: - Our industry experts have decades of experience and can provide bespoke advisory services for your business and your unique challenges. To request a quote for Customs Advisory Services, click here.

As a first step, if exporting, your buyer should be able to tell you what their requirements are. However, you can also check the relevant requirements with:

IncoDocs - Export Documentation Templates.

IncoDocs provides a library of personalisable documents, streamlines your workflows and reduces compliance risk, empowering you and your team to focus on growing your business.

How can IncoDocs help your business?

  • Templates for Sales & Shipping: - From Quotes & Proforma Invoices to Commercial Invoices, Certificates of Origin, Bills of Lading, Packing Lists and Shipper’s Letter of Instruction, IncoDocs lets you create all the documents you need to run your sales & export operations in one place. Whether you need tweaks to our existing templates or entirely new templates altogether, IncoDocs can be tailored to your unique documentation needs.
  • Create Error-Free Documents Fast: - It could take you minutes instead of hours to create sales and shipping documents. A modern user interface designed for speed and simplicity lets you rapidly select and fill out data in a few clicks.
  • Automate Data Re-Entry with Smart Autofill: - Manually re-entering key information is costing you time, money and putting your business at risk. With IncoDocs, key information will flow through other documents in a set to ensure it is consistent and accurate. If something were to change, simply update it in one spot and let Smart Autofill do the heavy lifting.
  • Sign & Stamp Digitally: - Go paperless and avoid the time-consuming print-sign-scan workflow. Add a professional digital company stamp & signature onto your documents at the click of a button, all within your browser.

Browse and download over 30 UNLK aligned shipping documentation templates that are used throughout global trade to ensure compliance when shipping goods Internationally. View and download Commercial Invoices, Packing Lists, Declarations, Letters of Instructions, VGMs, Sales documentation and more.

You can customise IncoDocs to meet your needs:

  • Customise Templates to your Requirements: - IncoDocs provides a growing library of sales and export document templates which you can easily customize to suit your business' requirements. Documents can be also be created in multiple languages. Setup your own templates in minutes.
  • Showcase your Professional Brand: - Add your own company branded letterhead and footer to convey professionalism and make great first impressions.

Upgrade to the Cloud and Future-Proof your Operations.

  • Run Your Operations from Anywhere: - Go paperless and empower your team to ship from anywhere. Having everything in one organized and searchable hub makes it easy to understand what’s happening in your business and find the things you need when you need them.
  • Quick To Setup, Easy to Use: - It takes just minutes to setup and get started with IncoDocs. Import any existing contacts or products lists, invite your team members and start creating documents more efficiently without needing to install anything or get specialised training.
  • Neat Organisation: - IncoDocs’ Export Docs feature groups your export documents into a set combining all the relevant files and information in one place. Use the Master File to view, edit, and sync data across your entire export document set for each shipment.
  • Advanced Security & Privacy: - All data in IncoDocs is encrypted in transit using industry-standard TLS (Transport Layer Security) and at rest when it is stored on physical secured servers for maximum data protection and privacy.
  • Future-Proof your Business: - As supply chains continue to become more digitized, IncoDocs will enable your business to tap into new opportunities to streamline internal workflows and connect with supply chain providers to reduce administration costs for the future of global trade.

Integrate IncoDocs to Create New Efficiencies

  • Connect Apps with a Few Clicks: - Easily integrate with other tools and platforms at the click of a button. Get paid faster with 'Pay Now' options on your invoices by connecting Stripe, or autofill from invoices, quotes and purchase orders in your accounting platform by connecting your Xero or QuickBooks Online system.
  • IncoDocs API: - Integrate IncoDocs with any system using flexible technologies such as API, XML, and CSV. Speak with an IncoDocs global supply chain specialist to work with you and your specific needs.

Easy To Start

  • No installation required: - Start using immediately, no installation required.
  • No Training Required: - A simple interface makes it easy for anyone to pickup and use IncoDocs.
  • Support when you need it: - Find answers on our Help Center or speak to a team member in-app.


Not only can you start with a free version of IncoDocs - and 14 day free trials for premium solutions (starting at $27 per month) but you also get a 15% discount on the list prices by purchasing through here (use the link at the top of the page).

All plans include:

  • Customisable Template Library
  • Contacts & Products Database
  • Document Autofill
  • Digital Signatures & Stamps
  • Searchable HelpDesk
  • QuickBooks & Xero Integrations

You may also find IncoDocs' Countersigning Proforma Invoices, Purchase Orders and Sales Contracts used in Global Trade and How to Create a Packing List Document Template for Brexit of interest.

In addition to the overall support for international trade provided by HMRC , specific help can be found from the following:

  • If you have a specific question about importing, exporting or customs reliefs, call the Customs and International Trade Helpline on 0300 322 9434. The helpline is open from 8 am to 10 pm Monday to Friday and from 8 am to 4 pm at weekends. You can also send questions or make contact by webchat.
  • The Export Support Service is a new helpline for UK businesses to get answers to practical questions about exporting to Europe. The service is a 'one-stop shop' and brings together UK government information, making it easier for exporters to access advice and support.
  • HMRC's YouTube channel has videos and recorded webinars about customs processes and what you need to do before you trade goods with the EU.
  • You can also find webinars and videos from other government departments about trading with the EU.

Other useful information:

These resources are also supplemented by ChamberCustoms:

As also indicated in the Section dealing with Brexit, Product Codes are important elements for completing import and export documentation. They determine if any tariffs or quotas will apply to the trade. Any mistakes in these codes can result in: delays, fines or the incorrect imposition of tariffs. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to identify goods with the correct code. These codes are available via HMRC – or your freight forwarder or customs broker - or you may find it better to use Avalara's Cross Border Solution.

You can also check out Resultz's Overseas Tariff Codes and Descriptions Tool.

For further details and for a full range of international codes, see also: both Information Resources: Business Reference and Trade Reference.

Product Packaging and Labelling

Any goods exported will be subject to the labelling and packaging regulations of the importing country. Therefore, these must be agreed with the importer before concluding any contract and exporting the goods concerned.

See also: Information Resources: Business Reference: Packaging & Labelling.

Export Shipping, Packaging and Marking

When exporting goods, there are different types of shipping containers available to load and transport goods. The mode of transport and the type of shipping container used mainly depends on the product’s overall packing sizes, cubic measurement or total weight. To understand different options, download the shipping container chart to view sizes and specifications of all variations of dry cargo containers, refrigerated containers, open top containers, flat rack containers and more.

Export packages need to be properly marked and labelled to meet shipping regulations, ensure proper handling, conceal the identity of the contents, and help receivers identify shipments. The buyer usually specifies export marks that should appear on the cargo, e.g.:

  • Mark containers legibly to prevent misunderstandings and delays in shipping.
  • Stencil lettering onto packages in waterproof ink.
  • Markings should appear on three faces of the package -- on the top and on the two ends or the two sides.
  • Old markings must be completely removed.

See also InfoDocs' "Understanding Shipping Specifications & Shipping Methods.

General Considerations

Exported goods face greater physical risks in transit than domestic shipments. They are more vulnerable to breakage, theft, and damage. At some ports, goods may still be loaded or unloaded in a net or by a sling, conveyor, chute, or other method, putting added strain on the package. In the hold, goods might be stacked atop each other or bump sharply against other goods in transit. Overseas, handling facilities may not be up to domestic standards, so the cargo might be dragged, pushed, rolled, or dropped. Moisture from condensation is also a danger, even if the ship’s hold is equipped with air conditioning and a dehumidifier. The cargo also might be unloaded in the rain. Some foreign ports do not have covered storage facilities.

To minimise problems:

  • Use strong, reinforced boxes or crates to pack the goods. Seal and fill with lightweight, moisture-resistant material. Distribute the weight evenly to brace the container.
  • To deter theft, use strapping, seals, or shrink wrapping where possible.
  • Don't list the contents or show brand names on the outside of the packages.
  • For sea shipments, containerise your cargo whenever possible.
  • For air shipments, you can use lighter weight packing, but still take precautions.