What is a commercial invoice?

International trade requires filling out many, sometimes quite complicated paperwork. Various documents are required for customs clearance alone. The commercial invoice is one of them. An importer must ensure that the sender issues this type of invoice. Customs cannot clear imported goods without the commercial invoice.

Commercial Invoice (CI)

A commercial invoice, CI for short, is a document demanding payment for goods, detailing the financial transaction for sale. It is issued by the exporter (seller) for the importer (buyer) in international trade. It is a proof of purchase and required for customs clearance. On its basis, you can calculate and assess the duties and due taxes. Unlike the Bill of Lading, the commercial invoice does not transfer the ownership of goods.

It is important to get the commercial invoice and not proforma invoice, which customs do not accept.

What is in the commercial invoice?

The commercial invoice should be issued in English. If there is another language in use, at least the detailed description of the goods should be translated. Including HS codes will significantly speed up customs clearance. The invoice includes such information as:

  • invoice number corresponding to the number from the Packing List
  • invoice date
  • order number
  • consignee information (recipient): name, address, phone number, tax identification number, etc.
  • shipper information (sender)
  • notify party’s information of the shipper
  • shipping information: forwarding agent, date of export
  • a clear description of goods (type, no. of packages, units, weight, etc.) in accordance with the Packing List and Bill of Lading
  • HS code
  • Incoterm under which the merchandise has been sold
  • the price of each item in a particular currency (usually in USD)
  • total sale amount
  • payment instructions
  • insurance
  • origin of merchandise (with Country of Origin or made in)
  • invoice signature with the issuer’s stamp

No good can be of zero value. If the good is a sample or return, you can provide, for example, the cost of production or a symbolic amount. Any doubts at customs will lead to hold-ups or penalties.

There is no fixed commercial invoice format. An example:

commercial invoice

Before you start importing, you should familiarize yourself with all aspects of customs clearance, including the documents you need, as well as other topics related to import.

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