Commercial Invoice

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What is a Commercial Invoice?

A commercial invoice is an export document that is issued by the buyer in international shipments.  It contains information such as, but not limited to, consignee, shipper, shipping terms, payment terms, description and price of goods and total amount. A commercial invoice has multiple uses:

  • Acts as a contract between the buyer and seller detailing what is being purchased and at what price
  • Used by custom authorities to charge applicable taxes and duties based on classification of goods

When to use Commercial Invoice?

Commercial Invoice is used in shipments where goods are being shipped internationally. However, if the goods are being traded within EU you may not require a commercial invoice as goods moved within EU are in ‘free circulation’ and can be moved without customs or regulations.

Why is a commercial invoice important?

  • For businesses, Commercial Invoice acts as a proof of purchase or contract and without it, there is no verifiable way of knowing the transaction happened between the buyer and the seller
  • It can be used to resolve disputes between the buyer and the seller regarding shipping, payment terms and price, given it is a contract that both parties have agreed on.
  • Accurately completing Commercial Invoice ensures your shipment moves smoothly through customs without any delays
  • Correctly filled Commercial Invoice will eliminate any probability of being liable for warnings and fines that may arise

What information needs to be filled in a Commercial Invoice?

Shipper: Name and address of the shipper
Name and address of the consignee (receiving party)
Invoice Date:
Date invoice was issued
Method of Shipping:
This could be SEA, AIR, TRUCK or RAIL
Type of Shipment:
FCL (Full Container Load), LCL (Less Than a Container Load), FTL (Full Truck Load), LTL (Less than a truck load), Air, Break Bulk
Country of Origin:
Country where the goods were manufactured
Country of Destination:
Country where goods will be finally delivered (Usually the country where the buyer resides)
Port of Loading and Port of Discharge:
Seaport or airport in respective loading and discharge locations
Departure Date:
Date of Delivery or handover (depends on the incoterms)
Could vary from EXW, FOB, CFR, DDP, DAP. Checkout our detailed guide on incoterms.
Product details:
Product descriptions, SKU numbers, quantity, price
Bank Details:
Account information including account number and sort codes to the account you would like the buyer to pay to
Additional charges and discounts:
Charges could include value added services, freight or discounts your sellers are offering
Name and signature of authorized signatories

Commercial Invoice FAQ

What's the difference between a proforma invoice and a commercial invoice?

A proforma invoice and commercial invoice are similar in nature with both containing most of the same information. However, a proforma invoice is issued before the goods are produced or shipped. A proforma invoice confirms buyer’s purchase intent and is used by seller’s to begin the procurement and manufacturing process. It contains provisional quantities and prices of goods.

A commercial invoice on the other hand is issued when the goods are produced or shipped, and contains details of final quantities and prices of the goods in the shipment. Quantities on commercial invoice differ from proforma invoice in cases where the buyer changes the quantities in the end or the seller is unable to manufacture the complete quantity due to procurement or manufacturing issues. Prices on commercial invoice differ from proforma invoice in cases where, for example, the price of a commodity changed significantly from the time the proforma invoice was issued.

What Is the Difference Between a Commercial Invoice and a Packing List?

A commercial invoice is a document created by the seller that lists the finalized quantities and prices of the goods in the shipment. A packing list is a document created by the seller that contains coding and details of products being shipped with information such as weight, volume, number of packages and marks on the package. Packing list is used by buyers, freight forwarders and customs for different purposes. To learn more about packing list, click here.

Is a Commercial Invoice The Same as a Tax Invoice?

No. A tax invoice is required for businesses that sell their products to customers within the country. A tax invoice includes details such as the name of the business, the address where the company sells its products, the date of purchase, and the amount paid for the merchandise.

In contrast, a commercial invoice is used to report sales made outside the country.

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