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4 Steps for Ensuring Accurate Export Documents

On: November 9, 2016    |    By: David Noah David Noah    |    5 min. read

How to Ensure Accurate Export Documents | Shipping SolutionsSometimes, small typos can result in big, expensive errors.

In 2015, Mizuho Securities Co., a division of the second-largest national bank in Japan, sold single shares of stock for one yen apiece instead of offering them for the actual price—610,000 yen. This small typo cost the company dearly, and in less than one day, the company lost nearly $340 million.

While a typo may not cost your company $340 million, seemingly small errors can become expensive mistakes for exporters too. If you’re in charge of managing the exporting process at your company, this is something you need to pay special attention to. Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re creating accurate export documents.

1. Use One Set of Data

The most important factor in creating accurate export documents is using accurate data. That includes the correct name and addresses of your customers and all the other parties in your export shipments. It also means having a database of your products with correct pricing, Schedule B or Harmonized Tariff Schedule classifications, and export license requirements.

Download this step-by-step guide: Filing Your Export Shipments through the  Automated Export System

Once you've determined the correct contact and product information, that data should be located where everyone involved in creating export documents can access it to ensure everyone is using the same information. Some companies store that information in their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or accounting system. Other companies use a separate spreadsheet, database or software program to store the information and create their export forms.

Regardless of where that information is stored, you must have a system in place to review and update it as necessary.  Customer locations change. Schedule B codes get updated once or twice a year. Export control regulations change.

You can't imagine the number of people I speak with who have problems with their export documents or Electronic Export Information (EEI) filings through AESDirect because they are using outdated Schedule B codes. A strong Export Compliance Program (ECP) will include a plan for reviewing and updating this information.

2. Use a Common Set of Export Documents

Depending on the size of your company or organization, you may have different departments or divisions creating their own export paperwork. If that's the case at your company, it's almost guaranteed that everyone is using their own set of contact and product information. It's also likely that each department has created its own version of the export documents, which probably don't just look different from the forms other departments are using, they probably include different types of information.

Imagine the confusion your customers, freight forwarders, banks, and other parties in your supply chain face when your company's export paperwork varies from one shipment to the next. Worse yet, imagine the reaction of an officer from the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) when they come to audit your exports and they see a hodgepodge of forms. Do you think they might be suspicious of your export compliance efforts?

A standardized system for creating export documentation ensures consistency among all areas of your company. It gives you a place to store your current export information. And it allows you to update forms quickly and easily among all users when regulations and requirements change.

Maybe most importantly, using one system for creating your export documents means you also have one place where your export data is stored. You don't want to be forced to respond with a blank stare after a request from the OEE or FBI for export data related to a specific set of International Transaction Numbers (ITNs) for your Automated Export System (AES) filings.

Download this step-by-step guide: Filing Your Export Shipments through the  Automated Export System

3. Eliminate Redundant Data Entry

Depending on what, where and how you are shipping, you'll need to create a variety of export documents. At first glance these documents may look easy to fill out because much of the same information appears on all the forms. But that similarity is more of a curse than a blessing if you're required to manually enter the same information over and over again into different form templates.

First, it's a waste of time and a big reason why creating export documents is a slow, inefficient process. Second, it's incredibly important that the exact same information is entered on every form.

At best, inconsistent information may cause confusion and delay your shipment as your forwarder or carrier contacts you for the correct information. More problematic, inconsistent product descriptions and other information may cause a bank to refuse to pay on your letter of credit without an expensive correction. At worst, an incorrect classification or valuation can lead to penalties for export violations.

An export documentation solution will eliminate redundant data entry, which can save a significant amount of time (and money), while also improving the accuracy of your export paperwork.

4. Training

No matter how your company creates its export documents, the person or people who fill out the forms need to know what they're doing. That means more than just providing them with a previous set of documents and telling them to mimic what their predecessor did before.

Export documents are the backbone of the export process. They are used for transporting the goods, getting paid, fulfilling the terms of the sales contract, and as the basis of import and export compliance. Without an understanding of what information is required on each of the forms, where that information comes from, and why it is needed, your export process will always be one step away from danger.

There are many resources available for training your export team. Plenty of private companies like International Business Training offer seminars and webinars on the basics of export documentation and procedures. And there are plenty of free resources that can supplement that training.

Export Documentation Software

Shipping Solutions export documentation and compliance software is one popular solution for efficiently creating accurate export paperwork. More than 3,000 successful exporters use the software to create their export documents, file their EEI information through AESDirect, and stay compliant with U.S. export regulations.

See how Shipping Solutions software can help your company more quickly create accurate export documents. Schedule a free online demo of the software. There's no obligation.


David Noah

About the Author: David Noah

David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, the #1 selling export documentation software that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.

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