Customs form, what does ‘content description was not sufficient’ mean?

incomplete customs declaration image

You may have bought something from overseas and had a note from USPS or another carrier with your returned package, something like this:

“Incomplete Customs Declaration – Your package was rejected for export as the content description was not sufficient to determine if it meets U.S. export requirements”.

What does this mean?

Well it is quite simple and, whilst a pain and a delay, can be quite easily rectified. It means that the content description on the item’s customs declaration you were shipping internationally was not accurate or informative enough to satisfy customs at the border.

What is a content description?

It is vitally important, when filling in a customs form to ensure that you have written and complete and accurate content description otherwise your parcel might be rejected at the border and returned. The content description accurately describes what is in the parcel. Here is an example:

A bad content description: Kids clothes

A good content description: 4 children’s t-shirts made of 100% cotton

It is important to include descriptions of every item type that is being shipped, so if 2 men’s wool sweaters were also being packed you would need to include the size, material and use of those too.

Accurate description, try to include:

  • What the item is
  • The amount of each item
  • What it is made of
  • What it will be used for

The good description has sufficient information for the customs agents to accurately asses the package for entry into another country.

Of course, you will also need to ensure that all your other paperwork is also correctly completed, or you may still end up with an incomplete customs declaration.

What is a customs form?

A customs form is a document that is used to declare goods that are being imported or exported in international trade. These forms are used to provide customs officials with information about the goods being shipped cross-border and the associated costs involved. Customs forms are typically filled out by the sender before the goods are shipped and must be presented to customs officials upon arrival at the border of the country of arrival.


About Nick Beeny

Owner of MyInternationalShopping. I started this website after I moved to NZ as a way of helping others to shop internationally. My background is in web development, e-commerce and digital marketing.

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