How to fill in a commercial invoice

When it comes to shipping internationally, a commercial invoice is one of the most important documents. It provides key information for customs to clear your goods. That's why it's important to fill it in correctly with the right information.

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What is a commercial invoice?

A commercial invoice is an important document needed for international shipping. It provides information for the customs authorities, which helps them asses if the goods can move in or out of a country and what, if any, controls are needed. It also helps them determine duties and taxes.

Every shipment must have its own commercial invoice.

What details do I need to provide?

The invoice should preferably be printed on paper with a company letterhead. The information must be in English and include your company details, such as the address, contact details and tax number. You’ll also need to include the same details about the receiver.

Reason for export

State why you’re sending the goods – is it for trade or is it a gift?

Shipping date and number

The shipping number is your carrier’s number and sometimes known as the air waybill number. You can include your invoice number and order number for admin purposes – but it’s not essential for the authorities.

Incoterms®

This determines who’s responsible for the package during shipping. Find out more about this topic here.

Goods description

Describe your goods accurately. For example, instead of just ‘clothing’ put ‘men’s T-shirts 80% cotton, 20% polyester’. And don’t use company product codes to describe the goods. If the package contains branded items, include the brand name as well as the model number. Find out more about this topic here.

Quantity of goods

If you’re shipping different products, state the quantity of each.

HS Code

This code informs the customs authorities as to what type of goods you’re shipping. It also helps them asses duties and taxes. Find out more about this topic here.

Declared value

State the true value of the shipment. This should be the market price of the goods, along with the currency. If the value doesn’t seem reasonable, customs may ask you or your receiver for evidence of the value you’ve declared on the invoice. Find out more about this topic here.

Country of origin

This is where the products were originally manufactured – and may be different from the country the shipment is being sent from.

Weight

You’ll also need the NET and GROSS weight. GROSS is the NET weight and weight of the packaging combined.

Finally, remember to sign it.

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