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The Shipper’s Export Declaration: Paper or Plastic?
by Catherine J. Petersen | Format for Print

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Cable from London to the Associated Press by Mark Twain, 1897.

This same sentiment can be used to describe the death of the paper version of the Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED Form 7525V). This document is still accepted for most export shipments by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Customs & Border Protection as described in the Foreign Trade Statistical Regulations (FTSR). (The exception is for products that require an export license.)

Carriers have made business decisions to accelerate the process of encouraging their customers to switch to electronic filing of the SED through the Automated Export System (AES).

Most ocean carriers now impose a $100 fee for every paper SED that they receive. If you’ve never had this fee charged on your bill from the carrier, it’s because your freight forwarder is transferring the information you provide on your SED or Shipper’s Letter of Instruction to AES for your company. Your forwarder is then probably charging you between $15 and $25 for making the data transfer.

FedEx has taken the lead in the courier industry by issuing a notice to their customers that they will no longer accept paper SEDs after March 31, 2005. (Visit the FedEx website for more information.) FedEx now requires shippers to enter the AES “ITN” reference number and your “XTN” reference number in their system before they will accept an export shipment for carriage.

The Demise of the Paper SED?

While companies that are exporting products that require an export license are already required to file their SED information through AES, this change will not affect all other exports until final rules are written, commented upon by the export industry, reviewed by Census and other affected federal agencies, revised, and then published in the Federal Register.

According to an official in the Census Bureau’s Regulations, Outreach and Education Branch, Census will probably be issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking during February 2005. This proposed rule will make it mandatory to file the SED information electronically through AES for all exporters previously required to file a paper SED.

Once the new notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register, industry has 60 days to comment upon proposal. According to this Census Bureau official, Census should be able to address all the comments that are received and then issue a final rule by the end of 2005 or during the first quarter of 2006.

In addition to eliminating the paper SED, Congress has given Census authority to significantly increase monetary penalties for failing to file the SED information, filing the information late, or filing it with false or misleading information. These penalties were adopted in Public Law 107–228—September 30, 2002, Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 and update Title 15—Commerce And Foreign Trade, Chapter I—Bureau Of The Census, Department Of Commerce, Part 30—Foreign Trade Statistics.

At the same time that the paper SED is eliminated, Census will have the authority to enforce the increased penalties through the enforcement arm of these other agencies:

  • Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (BICE),
  • Customs & Border Protection (CBP), and
  • Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) of BIS.

Penalty Reason

Existing Penalties

Penalty Adopted, Not Yet Effective

Parties it Affects

Delayed Filing

$100/day, not to exceed $1,000

$1,000/day, not to exceed $10,000 per violation.

Carriers, including Motor, Rail, Ocean, Air.

Failure to File or Filing with False or Misleading Information

Not to exceed $1,000 per violation

Not to exceed $10,000 per violation or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.

Any person who fails to file or knowingly submits false or misleading information.

Furtherance of Illegal Activities


A fine not to exceed $10,000 per violation or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.

Any person who fails to file or knowingly submits false or misleading information.

Civil Penalties


Civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per violation; this is a penalty that may be in addition to any other penalty imposed by law.

Any person violating the provisions of the Census rules or any rule, regulation, or order issued, except as provided in section 304, which affects carriers.

Editor's Note: The Census Bureau published its "notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments in the February 17, 2005, Federal Register.

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