Understanding Commercial Invoice With Examples And Templates

Understanding Commercial Invoice With Examples And Templates

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Key Takeaways

  • A commercial invoice is a legal document issued by a seller to a buyer during an international sales transaction. It is a standard document for the customs declaration process, and therefore, it must be filled in and authorized before the customs officers.
  • Various fundamental elements are to be included in an invoice of trade by exporter and importer details, HS code, incoterm code, product description quantity, price, delivery, and payment terms.
  • The vast majority of businesses involved in international trade require a commercial invoice to deliver the goods through customs regulations into the country of destination.

Perhaps, the most important document for international shipping is the commercial invoice. 

Shipping your products in an international market is a task that has to be worked on tactfully, hence you must have the full knowledge of commercial invoices. Following the customs documentation in the last ten years sending costs go up and up, so the perfecting of the customs invoices would save you valuable time and money.

This blog post is going to lead you through the key details of a commercial invoice concerned with international shipments like what it is, how it is important, and, what to include. Keep reading to discover steps to prevent making errors that can be tedious during the time of international trade business operations.

What is a Commercial Invoice?

The commercial invoice is a crucial document that is with the goods exported to another country. It furnishes information on the purchase comprising of a long itemized list of goods with the agreed price by the seller and the international buyer.

It is one of the legal instruments mostly commonly used in the international trade and shipping industry and it has a great importance for the custom clearance process. A commercial invoice is the basis of customs assessment of what the true value of the imported goods really is and of the proper and accurate customs duties.

In essence, the invoice performs two key functions: it is a document that records customers’ payments as well as a customs declaration that helps in calculating import duties. The business must attach commercial invoice to ensure to the international trade rules when doing sales transactions including shipments across international boundaries.

For more information, click commercial invoices.

What is the difference between a Commercial Invoice and an Ordinary Invoice?

The main goal of commercial invoices is similar to this; they are used to request payment from customers due to the goods or services they have bought and obtained. 

How a commercial invoice differs from a standard invoice is usually based on the usage. 

In case of the domestic sales transactions, businesses send out standard invoices to prompt clients to pay, whereas, in the case of foreign sales, commercial invoices are issued to the clients and serve as customs documents. 

To briefly summarize, commercial invoices usually require much more compliance with shipping and international regulations that are not there in the standard invoices.

Why Is A Commercial Invoice Important?

The commercial invoice is essential documentation in international trade as it will offer details of goods being imported or exported from one border to the other.

These include:

  • Customs clearance: Customs agents utilize the commercial invoices to calculate the value of goods for duties and tax collection, and obey import and export law regulations.
  • Proof of Transaction: A commercial invoice is an official document obligation for sales that consists of a description, quantity, and price of the goods involved in a commercial transaction.
  • Record keeping: The document of a commercial invoice is the evidence of both concerned parties (one trading and the other selling) that may be useful in the areas of accounting as well as auditing. It can also serve as a proof case for disputes.
  • Logistics management: A commercial invoice copy informs a shipping process for expediting, affording shipping agents with the details of the consignment they handle.

When Is A Commercial Invoice Issued?

The majority of businesses issue a commercial invoice when moving merchandise internationally; this is to be able to ensure the taxes properly and duties. However, it is not needed for domestic shipping kind.

The EU countries’ single market policy gives an exception to this rule by providing advantages to intricate country shipments. These are free of invoice commercial dues since this agreement aims at the eased movement of goods. Nevertheless, regardless of the country of origin, its destination, or its purpose of exportation, a commercial invoice named accordingly is required for shipments to countries that are not within the EU, for example, from France to Singapore.

What Should Be Included in a Commercial Invoice?

It could be that the national customs authorities have their specific requirements for your business to format a commercial invoice in a specific way. However, every template requires three types of crucial details outlined.

Details about the Exporter and Importer

The commercial invoice shall comprise both the exporter’s and the importer’s information for verification and identification of the person(s) or business entities in the trade transaction. Such information should appear at the top of the commercial invoice. 

A commercial invoice should contain: 

  • A Company Logo: Place the issuer’s name or logo in the header of the commercial invoice. 
  • Contact information: The buyer/importer and the seller/exporter should have their names, phone numbers, addresses, and emails listed. 
  • Tax Identification Numbers: Add the tax identification numbers (TIDs) of the buyer/importer and the seller/exporter, or their equivalents for each nation.
  • Details of the party notifying: Provide information about who will be contacted when the products arrive at their destination. It is typically the shipment or forwarding agent.

Details of the Transaction

Commercial invoices should provide all relevant information about the purchase to offer a flawless customs process to the benefit of customs officials in their work that involves evaluating customs taxes and duties.

The following details need to be included on the commercial invoice:

  • Invoice number: Provide the invoice number in the document’s header.
  • Date of Issue: Indicate the day the bill was sent out.
  • Order number: For simple identification, include an order number.
  • The total amount sold: Declare how much the shipping goods are worth in total.
  • Payment terms: Indicate the terms of payment, including the currency, means of payment, and the deadline.

Details about the Shipment

An invoice in the trade must also accommodate other details assigned to the customs clearance of the goods. When exporting and importing products, it is crucial to include these pieces of information: 

  • The number on the Bill of Lading
  • Information about the forwarding agent.
  • HS Code: To make the process of figuring out import tariffs easier, use a 6-digit HS number (Harmonized System code) to determine which commodity category the items fit under.
  • Incoterm code: Using a standardized 3-digit number, indicate which party (the importer or the exporter) is responsible for any risks and transportation expenses during the shipping process.
  • Product details: Provide comprehensive details about the products, such as the weight, quantity, unit cost, and description of the product.
  • Country of origin: Indicate the location from which the products are shipped. 
  • Insurance costs: Find out whether the shipment is covered by any insurance.
  • Shipping Date: Include the date of shipment when describing the goods.
  • Exporter’s signature: To ensure the paper is authentic, sign it. Include your role in the company as well if you are sending this as business correspondence.
  • Extra information: Additional information, such as the mode of transportation and the reason for export, may be included.

An invoice example with the template is attached.

Commercial invoices are one of the essential documents of a business, which has to have a well-organized structure to be processed without any congestion. Always double-check to make sure that you have included all essential data in your writing and that it is well-defined and legible.

Let’s look at an example of a commercial invoice:

Invoice Sample

You don’t have to devote too much time to filling out a commercial invoice once you have the template taken care of. There are plenty of these document styles available for downloading from websites such as IncoDocs, FedEx, and TNT Express thus you can use them to simplify the task and increase speed. In this regard, you can use, register, and print these invoices that are provided in advance.

With a commercial invoice, a copy should be attached to the parcel and cleared for the local customs authorities.

Yes, there are other contract files related to the bilateral shipping process. Except for the commercial invoice, the pro forma invoice, the letter of direction (BOL) of lading, and the packing list are the documents that are very much needed in the customs procedure around the globe for import and export.

To start with, the advantages and disadvantages of the given two will be viewed in detail.

Pro Forma Invoice

The pro forma invoice is one example that accompanies import and export deals. It is also known as an Advise of Sell and mostly sent by the seller to the buyer before commercial invoice is issued.

The pro forma invoice does not have the legal status of commercial invoices, besides it cannot be used as a basis in accounting, determining customs duties or for receiving payment. On the other hand, the clients can prepare the prototype invoices in the way of estimating duties or taxes and they can plan the entire import procedure with this approach.

In summary, both of them have almost the same importance in international trade but pro forma invoice is different from commercial invoice. Although a pro forma invoice is sent to the buyer before shipment defining the estimated costs, a commercial invoice comes after shipment and addresses the actual finalized costs charged or to be charged.

Bill of Lading

Along with other important documents, an international shipment that you can think of is a bill of lading.

A bill of lading is a legal document that certifies the delivery of goods along with the responsibilities of the carrier to the importer. It describes these goods transferred, details of the product, number, approximate total weight, the method and the shipping route as well as the shipment date.

The main distinction between a commercial invoice and a bill of lading is the title of ownership. Though the commercial invoice presents all round details of finished transactions, it does not signify the ownership of the goods. Hence, the bill of lading assigns to the carrier the signature (physical or digital) of a person with the legal right to claim possession of the goods at the destination.

Packing Lists

The list of packings is document on which the content is enlisted in detail. It is one of the key documents of commodities, pertinent in exports transactions, especially for logistic purposes.

As a rule, the packing and delivery lists provide the details similar to the commercial invoices such as the parties involved, description of the products, quantity, weight and delivery and payment terms. However, packing lists include the following details:

  • Shipment date
  • Port of origin 
  • Port of destination
  • List of commodities in another parcel
  • Return address

The packing list and commercial invoice are the two export documents for unique tasks. A commercial invoice most of the time is used in the purchase invoice. Yet, the packaging list is all about the definition of the same material of concern but for classifying transported goods to make it easier for international freight forwarders or transport agencies to identify what is being transported.

Things To Avoid For Any Kind of Commercial Invoices

As a legal obligatory, a commercial invoice must be properly filled and completed correctly to conform to the customs rules and regulations.

To prevent hold-up, shipping delay costs and legal issues from tax authorities, it is better to double-check that every detail on the commercial invoice is correct when dispatching the package especially the price and payment details that may cause calculation errors.

Here are the common mistakes to avoid when creating a commercial invoice:

  • Neglecting Vital Information: Make sure that all necessary data are included, including the contact information of both the party and the seller, invoice number, date and a detailed goods description.
  • Errors in Goods Classification: Apply the correct HS code and the incoterm code to avoid the wrong tariff assessment or payment.
  • Inexact Goods Valuation: Obeying customs restrictions and avoiding shipment delays, you should value the goods properly; do not undervalue or overvalue goods.
  • Insufficient Shipping Information: Supply the shipping details correctly and comprehensively, including the location, the destination, and the terms of delivery, to avoid problems that occur in the middle of transportation or shipment getting lost.


Shipping goods to cross borders requires you to know the customs regulations that customs authorities require. A commercial invoice which has to have all important data, including the goods types, value, dimensions and weight, is necessary for the custom officials to determine the right import duties and taxes.

Now that you’ve finished reading this article, you have the full picture of the significance of commercial invoices in global trade. With these best practices, you can smoothly keep the shipment pace and avoid any possible stoppages or financial losses.

How Fastlane Group Can Help?

Fastlane Group provides corporate services like a company secretary, accounting, and audit. With the depth of knowledge of our team, we can help your company meet all compliance requirements and ensure that the procedure is efficient, timely, and complete with all necessary documentation. Get in touch with us right now to find out more about how we can support your success!

Frequently Answered Questions

A commercial invoice is a legislation instrument issued by the shipper to the buyer in international trade transactions. It is the initial point of cargo for the first stage of the customs declaration process.

Giving a correct commercial invoice is required by the official authorities for their assessment of duties and taxes while you do international business.

It is the seller, who exports (the exporter), who fills in the commercial invoice.

All of such data is a must, and they include detailed information about the importer, exporter, and shipment contents. You must include the logistics-related information as well.

Shipping items without CC (commercial invoice) is regarded as an underlay option and would most probably be paid taxes or refused at customs.

Typical issues linked with the commercial invoices include the contradictions of the data that can result in customs delays and extra expenses. Completing these forms properly and providing exact and detailed information is of utmost importance. A resolution of the information failures and clear communication to all the parties should be prioritized at the most expeditious speed.

As for exporters as well as importers, commercial invoices become an issue. For exporters, this bill of exchange provides the sales proof and the goods’ value calculation. Importers, in turn, use it in order to verify it as received as well as as the basis for calculating customs duties and taxes.