Cold Chain Logistics, Customs Documentation, Life Science Shipping, Shipping & Logistics - General

What Is a Commercial Invoice and Why It Matters

September 28, 2023
What is a commercial invoice?

The Vital Role of the Commercial Invoice (CI)

Written By: Debbie Jung

When it comes to international shipping, many steps and protocols need to be taken adequately, as there is a risk of your package getting stuck in customs. One of the customs requirements that must be completed is the Commercial Invoice (CI). While completing the CI may seem like a routine shipping document, it contains valuable information that directly affects the success of your shipments. All international shipments require a CI, and we will explore its contents and the crucial parts.

What is a Commercial Invoice (CI)?

A Commercial Invoice is a vital document in international trade and shipping. Unlike domestic invoices, this specialized document is tailored exclusively for international transactions and plays a crucial role in the customs clearance process for cross-border shipments. Exporters or sellers create it, serving a dual purpose: formally requesting payment from the buyer or importer and meticulously documenting the traded goods.

This document is indispensable in helping customs authorities accurately assess customs duties, facilitating the seamless movement of goods across international borders.

What is a commercial invoice

Why is a Commercial Invoice Significant?

The Commercial Invoice (CI) plays a pivotal role in the international shipping process, serving as the cornerstone of your customs declaration. By providing an accurate and detailed description of the shipped goods, the CI facilitates the determination of applicable duties and taxes, ensuring compliance with customs regulations. Recognizing the importance of a meticulously prepared commercial invoice is paramount for a seamless and successful international trade experience.

How to Make a Commercial Invoice?

Commercial invoices are universally employed, and free templates can be easily found online. Completing a commercial invoice becomes straightforward when one diligently follows the provided guidelines and instructions.

Commercial Invoice Preparation

The following are the contents and details you need to complete your commercial invoice. This step is crucial to fill out accurately.

  1. From, Exporter or Shipper Section
    • Tax ID or EORI Number
    • Shipper's contact name
    • Shipper's address with zip code and country
    • Shipper's phone number
  2. Shipment Details
    • Tracking: The tracking number for your package is usually on your shipping label
    • Invoice: Invoice number assigned by the shipper
    • Date
    • PO: Purchasing Order that is assigned by the shipper when needed
    • Terms of Sale: Billing terms on the invoice include the person responsible for paying various costs, such as duties and taxes, the product price, shipping, and insurance.
    • Reason for export: The reason why you are shipping. Ex. For research, Gift, etc.
  3. Ship To, Recipient, Consignee Section
    • Tax ID or EORI Number
    • Recipient's contact name
    • Recipient's address with zip code and country
    • Recipient's phone number
  4. Package Detail Section
    • Units: Number of units for applicable description
    • Description of Goods: Detailed descriptions of the package; what it is, what material it's made of, what it's used for
    • Harmonized Tariff Code (HS Code): Universal code utilized by World Customs Organization (WCO) to classify an item.
    • Country of Origin/Manufacturer (C/O): Where the goods are made or assembled, NOT where it's going to/where it's coming from
    • Unit Value: Individual value of your item
    • Total Value Unit: The total value of your items

Consequences of Inaccurate Completion of a Commercial Invoice

Completing a commercial invoice with precision is obligatory under the law. Neglecting this obligation could lead to significant delays and extra expenses in the shipping process. Additionally, since a commercial invoice serves as a vital document for customs declarations, any inaccuracies could result in underpayment of required duties and taxes, accompanied by potential legal consequences.

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