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Guide to Calculating Declared Value for International Shipping

Navigating the complexities of international shipping can be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of declared value. This guide aims to demystify the concept of declared value, differentiate it from shipping insurance, and provide a comprehensive overview of how to determine and use it effectively.

What is Declared Value?

Declared value represents the monetary worth of a shipment as stated by the shipper. It’s used by carriers to limit their liability in case of loss or damage. Essentially, it’s the maximum amount a carrier would be responsible for if something happens to the package during transit.

Declared Value vs. Shipping Insurance

  • Declared Value
    This is not insurance but a value declared by the shipper. It’s a way to set a limit on the carrier’s liability for the shipment. If a package is lost or damaged, the carrier will only compensate up to the declared value, provided the loss or damage is within their terms of liability.
  • Shipping Insurance
    This is a separate service that provides coverage for shipments in case of loss, damage, or theft. It often covers situations that might be excluded from a carrier’s liability, such as natural disasters or certain types of damage. Shipping insurance requires an additional fee and is typically based on the value of the shipment and the type of coverage chosen.

How to Determine Declared Value

  • Invoice Value
    If you’re shipping a sold product, the invoice value is a straightforward way to determine the declared value. It represents the sale price and is often the amount you’d stand to lose if the shipment were lost or damaged.
  • Cost of Production
    For items you’ve produced but haven’t sold, consider the cost of production. This includes raw materials, labor, and other direct costs.
  • Market Value
    For unique items without a clear invoice or production cost, such as antiques or artwork, the market value can be used. This might require an appraisal or a comparison to similar items recently sold.
  • Replacement Value
    For items that can be easily replaced, such as mass-produced goods, the replacement value can be used. This is the cost you’d incur to replace the lost or damaged item.

Factors to Consider When Declaring Value

Carrier Limits
Different carriers have different maximum limits for declared values. Always check with your chosen carrier to ensure your shipment’s value doesn’t exceed their limit.

For example, take the three following carriers for examples:

  • Canada Post: Canada Post’s liability for lost or damaged parcels on most service types is limited to $100 CAD. However, additional coverage can be purchased for up to $5,000 CAD for certain services.
  • Purolator: Purolator’s standard liability for loss or damage is $100 CAD for Purolator Ground services. For higher values, shippers can declare a higher value for an additional fee.
  • UPS: UPS’s standard liability for package loss or damage is $100 CAD. However, shippers can declare a higher value for their package for an additional charge.

Country Regulations
Some countries have specific regulations or restrictions regarding declared values, especially for high-value items. It’s essential to research the destination country’s rules before shipping.

Take the U.S. and Canada for example:

  • United States: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection requires all shipments entering the U.S. to have a declared value. This value, which is presented on a “commercial invoice,” is used to assess duties and taxes. It’s essential to ensure that the declared value is accurate and supported by a sales receipt or invoice. This is the case for everything included in a shipment — no matter how trivial. Are you throwing in some promotional items last minute? Declare them and their value. Misrepresentation, no matter how small, can lead to penalties or delays in customs clearance. 
  • Canada: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requires all goods entering Canada to have a declared value. This value is used to calculate any applicable duties and taxes. Just like with U.S. regulations, it’s crucial to ensure the declared value is accurate to avoid potential issues at customs. Additionally, certain high-value items might have specific import regulations or restrictions, so it’s essential to check the CBSA’s guidelines for any special considerations.

Additional Fees
Some carriers might charge additional fees for high declared values. Always factor these into your shipping costs.

Declaring Value: Best Practices

  • Documentation
    Always keep a record of how you determined the declared value. This can be an invoice, an appraisal, or any other relevant documentation.
  • Be Accurate
    Under-declaring can lead to insufficient compensation in case of loss or damage, while over-declaring can lead to unnecessary fees. Always strive for accuracy.
  • Review Terms
    Before declaring a value, review your carrier’s terms and conditions regarding liability. Understand what’s covered and what’s not.
  • The Importance of Shipping Insurance
    While declared value limits a carrier’s liability, it doesn’t provide comprehensive protection. Shipping insurance fills this gap, offering coverage for a broader range of scenarios and often providing peace of mind, especially for high-value shipments.


Understanding and accurately determining the declared value is crucial for international shipping. It ensures you’re adequately compensated in case of unforeseen events while also helping you navigate the costs and regulations of international trade. Always consider coupling declared value with shipping insurance for maximum protection.

Keywords: Declared value, international shipping, shipping insurance, carrier liability, invoice value, cost of production, market value, replacement value, carrier limits, shipping costs.

Inex | 05.11.2023

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