Commercial Invoice Everything You Need to Know

Commercial Invoice : Everything You Need to Know

Are you involved in importing or exporting goods ? You must have heard of the commercial invoice. This essential document is required for customs clearance and plays a crucial role in import-export operations. But what exactly is a commercial invoice, and why is it so important ?

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take a deep dive into the world of commercial invoices, covering everything you need to know to ensure your shipments are compliant and hassle-free.
Whether you're a seasoned importer or exporter or just starting, this guide is for you.
From essential information to regulations, different types, and how to fill one out correctly, we've got you covered.  So let's explore the world of commercial invoices together !

What’s a Commercial Invoice ?

If you're new to international trade or simply need a refresher, you might be wondering, "What exactly is a commercial invoice?" In simple terms, a commercial invoice is a document that details the goods being shipped, including their description, quantity, value, and other important information. It's used by customs officials to determine the correct duties and taxes to be paid on the shipment, as well as to verify that the goods are allowed to be imported into the destination country. Whether you're an exporter or an importer, understanding the ins and outs of a commercial invoice is essential for a successful and hassle-free international shipment.

In this section, we'll take a closer look at what a commercial invoice is and why it's so important.

Key Details to Include on a Commercial Invoice

When it comes to creating a commercial invoice, there are several key pieces of information that you'll need to include. Here's a breakdown of the most important details:

Sender and recipient details

The first section of a commercial invoice typically includes details about the sender and recipient of the goods being shipped. This might include the name and address of the sender (i.e., the exporter), as well as the name and address of the recipient (i.e., the importer). It's important to include accurate contact information for both parties to ensure the shipment can be delivered smoothly.

Product or merchandise details

Next, you'll need to provide a detailed description of the goods being shipped. This might include the product name, model number, and any other relevant details (such as size, color, or material). It's important to be as specific as possible to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings with customs officials.

Quantities and prices

In addition to describing the goods, you'll also need to provide information on the quantity being shipped, as well as the price per unit. This information is used to calculate the total value of the shipment, which is used by customs officials to determine the appropriate duties and taxes to be paid.

Shipping and insurance fees

Finally, you'll need to include information on any shipping and insurance fees associated with the shipment. This might include the cost of freight, handling fees, and insurance charges. Including this information on the commercial invoice can help ensure that all fees are properly accounted for and paid.

Commercial Invoice

DocShipper Alert : Accurate and complete completion of commercial invoices is crucial in import-export operations to avoid customs delays, fines, and potential shipment seizure. For newcomers in the field, the complexity of invoice requirements and regulations can be overwhelming. To mitigate the risks associated with incorrectly filled invoices, consider partnering with a trusted logistics company like DocShipper. Our expertise ensures that your commercial invoices are filled out correctly, minimizing the chances of issues or penalties. Contact us !


Regulations on the commercial invoice

As an international business owner, understanding the legal and regulatory requirements for a commercial invoice is crucial to avoid any potential legal issues. Depending on the countries involved in the transaction and the commercial zones they belong to, there may be different requirements for commercial invoices.

Legal and regulatory requirements you need to follow when filling out the commercial invoice

Regulations on the commercial invoice

Creating a commercial invoice can be a complex process, as different countries and commercial zones have varying legal and regulatory requirements that must be met. 

For example, in the European Union, the EORI number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) is a specific requirement that must be included on a commercial invoice. This unique identifier helps to identify traders and track their movements within the EU's customs territory. In addition, the EU also has regulations around the value-added tax (VAT) that must be included on a commercial invoice for certain goods.

On the other hand, in the United States, the requirements for a commercial invoice include the full name and address of both the importer and exporter, along with a detailed description of the goods being shipped. This description should include the quantity, weight, and value of the goods. The commercial invoice must also indicate the terms of sale, such as whether the transaction is a sale or a consignment.

It's important to note that these legal and regulatory requirements are not limited to just the European Union and the United States. Every country has its own set of rules and regulations that must be followed when preparing a commercial invoice.
Failure to comply with these requirements can result in customs delays, fines, or even the seizure of the shipment. Therefore, it's essential to do thorough research and ensure that your commercial invoice complies with all necessary regulations.


DocShipper info : A commercial invoice is a complex document that must meet legal and regulatory requirements depending on the countries and commercial zones involved in the transaction. These requirements can vary from country to country and failure to comply with them can result in customs delays, fines or even the seizure of the shipment. It's essential to do thorough research or seek the help of a professional, like DocShipper, to ensure that your commercial invoice complies with all necessary regulations. Contact us ! 

Understanding the Differences in Legal and Regulatory Requirements for Commercial Invoices Across Countries and Commercial zones

It's also important to be aware of the differences in regulations between countries and commercial zones. 

Legal and regulatory requirements

Here are some notable examples of how legal and regulatory requirements for commercial invoices may differ across various countries and commercial zones :

  • In the United States, a commercial invoice must contain specific information, such as the country of origin of the goods and the HTS code for each product. Failure to include this information can result in fines or delayed customs clearance.
  • In the European Union, a commercial invoice must include the VAT number of both the buyer and the seller, as well as a description of the goods in sufficient detail to determine their classification for customs purposes.
  • In some countries, such as China, the commercial invoice must be in Chinese and issued on the letterhead of the exporting company.
  • Some commercial zones, such as the EU, have specific rules for trade with certain countries, such as the requirement for a Certificate of Origin for goods originating from certain countries.

Moreover, some countries or commercial zones may require additional documentation to accompany the commercial invoice, such as certificates of origin or inspection reports. Understanding the specific requirements for each destination is crucial to ensure that the commercial invoice is accurate and compliant with regulations.

The 3 different types of commercial invoice

There are several types of commercial invoices that are used to facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers. In this section, we'll explore three common types of commercial invoices: proforma invoices, final invoices, and consolidated invoices. Each type of invoice serves a unique purpose and includes different information, so it's important to understand the differences between them

Proforma invoice

A proforma invoice is a preliminary bill of sale sent by a seller to a buyer, which outlines the details of a transaction before the shipment of goods. This type of invoice is commonly used in international trade and serves as a quotation or estimate for the goods and services being sold. It typically includes a description of the goods, the price, and any applicable terms and conditions of the sale, such as payment and delivery terms. Proforma invoices are often used by importers to obtain an import license, open a letter of credit, or apply for financing.

Final invoice

A final invoice is a bill of sale that is issued once the goods have been shipped or delivered to the buyer. It is the official invoice used to demand payment for the goods sold, and it is typically issued once the seller has received confirmation that the goods have been received in good condition. Final invoices should contain all the necessary information required for payment, such as a detailed description of the goods, their quantities and prices, as well as any applicable taxes or fees.

Consolidated invoice

A consolidated invoice is a type of commercial invoice that consolidates multiple transactions or shipments into a single invoice. This type of invoice is commonly used in logistics and transportation industries where multiple shipments are made to a single destination or multiple destinations. Consolidated invoices help to simplify the invoicing process, reduce paperwork, and save time and money. They typically include a summary of all the shipments, including the goods, quantities, prices, and any applicable taxes or fees.


DocShipper Tip :  To ensure a smooth international trade process, it is important to understand the different types of invoices used in transactions. At DocShipper, we can assist you in navigating the complex invoicing process and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations. Contact us ! 

How to fill out a commercial invoice ?

When filling out a commercial invoice, it's important to follow certain steps to ensure that it's completed accurately and efficiently. Here are some general steps to follow when filling out a commercial invoice:

Steps to follow to properly fill out a commercial invoice

Gather information

  1. Gather all necessary information: Make sure you have all of the relevant information about the sender, recipient, and shipment before beginning to fill out the commercial invoice. This includes addresses, contact information, descriptions of the goods being shipped, and any other necessary details
  2. Begin with the basics: Start by filling out the basic information about the shipment, including the date, the invoice number, and the names and addresses of the sender and recipient.
  3. Provide detailed descriptions of the goods: It's important to provide detailed descriptions of the goods being shipped, including the quantity, unit price, and total value of each item. Be sure to include any relevant information about the products, such as their country of origin, their harmonized system code (HS code), and any necessary certifications or licenses.
  4. Include shipping and payment details : Make sure to include information about the shipping method and any associated fees or costs, as well as details about the payment terms and any required documents, such as bills of lading or certificates of origin.
  5. Double-check for accuracy : Before submitting the commercial invoice, double-check all of the information for accuracy and completeness. This will help to avoid any potential issues or delays with customs or shipping.


Mistakes to avoid when writing a commercial invoice

It is crucial to avoid common mistakes that can lead to shipment delays or even fines. These mistakes can include incorrect information, incomplete details, or inaccurate values. Taking the time to ensure that all information is accurate and complete can prevent costly errors and ensure a smooth shipment process. 

Avoid mistakes DocShipper

  1. Incomplete or incorrect information: Make sure that all of the necessary information is included on the commercial invoice, and that it's accurate and up-to-date. This includes information about the sender and recipient, the shipment, and the payment details.
  2. Incorrect or inconsistent product descriptions: Providing accurate and detailed descriptions of the goods being shipped is essential to avoid delays or issues with customs. Ensure that the product descriptions are consistent with any other documentation, such as packing lists or bills of lading.
  3. Missing or incorrect documentation: Depending on the destination country or the type of goods being shipped, there may be additional documentation required.
    Make sure to include all necessary documentation, such as certificates of origin or bills of lading, and ensure that it's accurate and complete.
  4. Incorrect values or pricing : Providing accurate pricing information is crucial for customs purposes and for calculating taxes or duties. Make sure that the values are correct and consistent with any other documentation.

By following these steps and avoiding common mistakes, you can help to ensure that your commercial invoice is completed accurately and efficiently, helping to facilitate a smooth and timely shipment.

DocShipper Tip : To avoid shipment delays and fines, it is important to provide complete and accurate information on the commercial invoice, including sender and recipient details, product descriptions, necessary documentation, and correct pricing. This will help ensure a smooth and timely shipment process. Need help ? Contact us here ! 


The commercial invoice in import-export operations

As an importer or exporter, you may already be familiar with the commercial invoice, but do you know why it's so essential in import-export operations ? In this section, we'll explore the importance of the commercial invoice and why it's crucial to get it right.

Importance of the commercial invoice in import-export operations

import export operations

The commercial invoice is a key document in any import-export transaction. It serves as a legal contract between the buyer and seller, and it's used to determine the value of the goods for customs purposes. Customs officials rely on the information provided in the commercial invoice to assess duties and taxes, so accuracy is crucial.

In addition, the commercial invoice is used by banks to process payments and by freight forwarders to arrange shipping. Without a properly completed commercial invoice, your shipment may be delayed, held at customs, or even returned to the sender.e

Documents and processes associated with the commercial invoice

Several documents and processes are associated with the commercial invoice in international trade. These may vary depending on the countries involved, the type of goods being shipped, and the mode of transportation. Some of the documents that may be required include certificates of origin, bills of lading, export licenses, and inspection certificates. It's important to ensure that all necessary documentation is provided and that it's accurate and complete to avoid any delays or issues with customs. Additionally, certain processes may be required, such as obtaining an import license or opening a letter of credit. Working with a reputable logistics provider like DocShipper can help to ensure that all necessary documentation and processes are taken care of, streamlining the shipment process and avoiding any potential issues.

Preparation of the commercial invoice

In international trade, the commercial invoice is an essential document for both the exporter and importer. This section covers who is responsible for preparing the invoice, when it should be prepared, and where to find templates.

Who prepares the commercial invoice ?

The responsibility of preparing the commercial invoice falls on the exporter, as they are the ones selling the goods and shipping them to the importer. The exporter is usually familiar with the product and the terms of the sale, making them best equipped to prepare the invoice accurately.

In some cases, the exporter may choose to work with a freight forwarder or customs broker like DocShipper  to handle the shipping and customs clearance process, including the preparation of the commercial invoice. These professionals have expertise in navigating the complex regulations and requirements associated with international trade and can ensure that the invoice is accurate and compliant.

It is also possible for the importer to request specific information or formatting for the commercial invoice, such as including their own internal purchase order number or requiring a specific currency for the invoice. In such cases, the exporter may need to work with the importer to ensure that the invoice meets their requirements, as well as any legal and regulatory requirements in the destination country.

When should the commercial invoice be prepared ?

Preparing the commercial invoice in a timely manner is crucial to ensure smooth customs clearance and timely payment. In some countries, regulations require that the commercial invoice be submitted before the shipment arrives, while in others it may be allowed to be submitted after the goods have arrived. It is important to check the specific requirements of the destination country or commercial zone to ensure compliance.

The timing of the invoice preparation can also impact the payment terms agreed upon between the buyer and the seller. If the invoice is prepared too late, it may delay the payment process and cause issues with cash flow. It is important to establish clear payment terms and timelines with the buyer, and to ensure that the invoice is prepared in a timely manner to avoid any payment delays.

Where can the commercial invoice be found ?

To find commercial invoice templates, a simple online search can suffice. Many websites offer free or paid commercial invoice templates with different designs and formats. It is important to

choose a template that is suitable for the company's business activities and regulatory requirements in the importing country.

Exporters can also turn to their local chamber of commerce or shipping agent to obtain commercial invoice templates. These organizations can provide templates that are tailored to the regulations in force in the importing country and international standards.

It is important to note that commercial invoice templates should be customized for each commercial transaction. Specific information regarding the sale should be included, such as the name and address of the buyer, product descriptions, quantities, prices, and payment and shipping terms. It is also important to verify the accuracy of the information before sending the commercial invoice to avoid errors and delays in the shipping and customs clearance process.



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