If you are shipping across borders, you will require a commercial invoice as part of your customs declaration. It should describe the contents and value of your shipment so that customs can calculate any customs duties to be paid.
Failure to include a commercial invoice will delay your shipment and most likely your goods will not be allowed through customs.
Basic Information Required on a Commercial Invoice
There’s no standard format for a commercial invoice, but there is some standard information that it should contain.
Details of sender/recipient:
- Name and contact details of the sender and recipient, including phone numbers
- Consignee’s details if they are different from the recipient
- Tax number / VAT number of the sender and recipient
- EORI number (if you’re shipping outside the EU, eg UK)
Information about the shipment:
- Shipping & tracking information like waybill number, shipment ID, tracking number, etc
- Cost of carriage
- Invoice number (for your own admin purposes)
- Date of shipment
- Number of packages
- Gross and net weight
- Terms of sale
Information about the contents:
- Description of contents – what it is, what it’s made of and what it’s used for
- List all items if there are more than one type, quantity of each, value of each, and total value
- HS code
- Country of origin
- Reason for export (gift or trade – this may affect the amount of duties you pay)
- Sender’s signature & date
- Write the invoice in English.
- Print the invoice on company letterhead if possible.
- Have the invoice ready before your shipment is collected.
- It’s a good idea to prepare 3 sets of 3 copies of the commercial invoice, one for the outside of the shipment, one for inside, and one for your own records.
- If you are shipping outside the EU, you will need an EORI number, which you can apply for here. Please note that since Brexit, an EORI number is required to ship to the UK. For more information about shipping to the UK, see our UK page.
- If you have a sales contract, it will specify the terms of sale or Incoterms (International Commercial Terms). If you don’t have a sales contract, you need to choose the correct Incoterm. Get more information here.
- When writing your product description, make sure there is plenty of detail. For example, instead of ‘clothes’, write ‘women’s fashion leggings 80% cotton, 10% elastane / women’s fashion short sleeved t shirts 100% cotton, etc).
- If the contents of your shipment are branded, mention this in the description.
- Be clear about the quantity of each item that you’re shipping.
- Be accurate about the value of your goods to avoid delays in delivery.
- HS code is a list of codes used by customs authorities to identify products. Using these codes will ensure that the correct taxes are charged and avoids delays in delivery. Here’s a website where you can find the correct HS codes.
- Country of origin is the country where your goods were originally manufactured or assembled.
- Always affix the three copies of the commercial invoice to the outside of your shipment and put a second set inside the container as well, just in case the labelling on the outside of your goods gets damaged during transit.
- Keep a copy of your original signed commercial invoice in your files as this is required for audit purposes.