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How to Prepare a Commercial Invoice Before Exporting

Logistics advice · 3 Mins Read

How to Prepare a Commercial Invoice Before Exporting

As a business owner, you may or may not be aware of the different types of documents that are required when shipping internationally. Some of these documents include air waybills, commercial invoices, bill of lading, among others.

Of these, the commercial invoice is one of the most essential documents required for any shipments exported overseas. 

What is a Commercial Invoice?

A commercial invoice is a unique document required by custom clearance if you are exporting goods internationally. It contains shipment details such as country of origin, exporter and importer information, invoice number and date, Harmonised System (HS) code, and payment terms. You are expected to prepare a commercial invoice when you are ready to ship your goods. 

A completed commercial invoice helps custom authorities decide on which taxes, tariffs, or duties are applied to the shipment. Correctly filled commercial invoices help to speed up the process.

Purpose of a Commercial Invoice

Commercial invoices are used in all situations related to the process of international shipping. They are:

  • Required by the importing country’s authorities for custom clearance

  • Used to supporting insurance claims made against the goods provided that the goods are insured

  • Used by exporter and consignee as an invoice to outline all items that are bought and sold

  • Created for the consignee to transfer funds to the exporter via the bank

Things to Note When Preparing A Commercial Invoice

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There are several things to note when preparing for a commercial invoice. Firstly, you will need to provide all the relevant information regarding your shipment, in the English language. These may include:

  • Exporter and consignee’s company name, address, contact details, and tax number

  • Buyer’s full name, address, contact details, and tax number (applicable if different from consignee’s)

  • Country of origin/manufacture

  • Detailed product information, including manufacturing information, materials used, size and weight, and quantity of units in cartons and/or pieces

  • Declared value of goods based on market price and currency

  • Total Freight & Insurance costs since most countries consider Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) for customs value tabulation

  • HS Code to inform customs the type of goods you are shipping to quicken duty and tax calculation

  • Written declaration of applicable discounts such as those by the World Trade Organisation

  • Incoterm applied, such as Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU) and Delivered Duty Paid, to define responsibilities between the buyer and seller

  • Shipping destination, including port information

  • Other logistics information such as dispatch mode or vessel number

You are also required to furnish a detailed product description such as the materials it is made of, the type of packaging, and even the brand, if applicable. Your commercial invoice should come with a number and date, and with the right HS code. This enables the authorities to track and identify the shipment and product within. 

All countries require goods imported into their country to be accompanied by a commercial invoice. Without it, foreign customs will not allow your products to enter.  

Providing inaccurate or incomplete information in your commercial invoice can result in additional customs fees. Therefore, it is important to ensure that everything is in order and that you retain a copy for yourself. When attaching the commercial invoice to your percel, make sure that it is affixed securely. This helps couriers and customs officers see the details clearly.

Not sure how to prepare a commercial invoice for export purposes? With a reliable international express delivery provider, you will be able to find digital tools which will help you generate the right documents for your shipping needs. With such tools, you will be able to automate your documentation process and create shipment orders with peace of mind.

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