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What Exactly is the Commercial Invoice?
A Commercial Invoice is a primary ocean shipping document used during international trading activities, which carries information about the contents of the shipping package. This document is paramount and is, of all shipping document, one of the first document of contact when exporting goods overseas.
The information on all other shipping documents is required to correspond with that of the Commercial Invoice. The Commercial Invoice is the most vital document for the international trade such that all other documents including Certificates of Origin, Packing Lists, Standard Shipping Notes, Customs Declarations etc., must make reference to information on the Commercial Invoice.
During an international transaction, the seller (i.e. the exporter) issues this legal document to the buyer (i.e. importer). This stands as a sale proof, and a contract between the exporter and importer. It is highly required by Customs during customs clearance in order to calculate and assess the duties and taxes due.
Worthy to note, while the Bill of Lading carries information about the good sold and the ownership, the Commercial Invoice may not, however, the information is encapsulated and must tally with information from other shipping documents.
Required Information on a commercial invoice
While the commercial invoice is unique from other ocean or sea shipping documents, ensure however that details on the one you are filling is clear and accurate to avoid having issues during customs clearance of your shipment.
Information to look out for in a Commercial Invoice.
There are plenty of commercial invoice templates and samples to choose from, online. While there is no fixed commercial invoice format, most of the information required is very similar and standardized across all templates. Whichever template you choose, ensure that the following details are included.
The Invoice Information refers to the information regarding the commercial invoice. They are:
Invoice Number: The supplier invoice reference number
Invoice Date: The issue date of the invoice
Order Number: The customer order number of the goods
The Shipper Information
The Shipper Information refers to the information about the sender of the Goods. They are;
Name: The name of the sender
Address: The complete address of the sender, which includes the postal/zip code and
the city name
Telephone: The telephone number of the sender.
Fax: The fax number of the sender
VAT Number: The sender Value Added Tax reference Number, for countries, which apply the VAT.
Country: The country the sender is located in.
The Consignee Information
Consignee Information: Refers to the information about the receiver of the goods
Name: The name of the receiver
Address: The complete address of the receiver, which includes the postal/zip code and
Telephone: The telephone number of the receiver.
Fax: The fax number of the receiver
VAT Number: The receiver Value Added Tax reference Number, for countries that apply
Country: The country the receiver is located in
Notify Party: The name of the party who affects the delivery of the goods.
Address: The address of the party to be notified
The Shipping Information
The Shipping Information refers to the information about the shipping of the goods. The details are as follows:
AWB Number: The Air Way bill number under which the goods are shipped Forwarding Agent: The shipping company name
Date of Export: The date of which the goods are shipped
Payment Mode: The paying mode of shipping that may be prepaid, collect or free
The Shipment Information
The Shipment Information refers to the information about the goods to be shipped. See listed details.
Number of Pieces: The number of parts the shipment consist of
Specification of Commodities: The description and nature of the Goods to be shipped.
Wt: The gross weight of each piece
Qty: Number of units of the Goods.
Unit Price: The value of each item unit
Amount: The amount of each set of Goods
Total Weight: The total gross weight of the goods
Currency: The Currency used for pricing the item
Total Amount: The total value of the shipment
Country Of Origin: The country where the Goods where manufactured
Name: The name of the sender
Signature: The signature/company stamp of the sender
Risks of not filling out a commercial invoice accurately
It is a legal requirement to fill out a commercial invoice accurately. Failure to do so may result in lengthy hold-ups and shipping delay costs. Given that a commercial invoice is also used for customs declaration purposes, any misinformation may lead to underpayment of the correct amount of duties and taxes due and their legal ramifications.