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Commercial Invoice: How to Prepare a Commercial Export Invoice


A commercial invoice acts as a bill of sale between a buyer and seller, describes what you are exporting, and references important transaction numbers. It also serves as a vehicle for getting paid. Your invoice must be prepared exactly as you and your customer agreed upon in your proforma invoice (including whether you should prepare the commercial invoice on your company letterhead or not -- be consistent!). If both of you agreed on a change in the sale terms later on, record that change on your invoice. In addition, always include the following information, even if it isn't asked for:

  1. Proforma invoice reference number (refer to How To Prepare a Proforma Invoice).
  2. Customer purchase order number.
  3. Method of payment: identify and supply any and all reference numbers pertaining to it.
  4. Shipping terms from your price quotation (for example, CNF Tokyo, FAS Seattle, FOB New York).
  5. Currency in which transaction will be made (U.S. dollars, Japanese yen, French francs, etc.).
  6. Bill of lading number.
  7. Container number, if shipped by container.
  8. Ports of exit and entry.
  9. Country of origin notation (refer to Country of Origin Certificate).) and the harmonized tariff code (to guarantee accurate duty calculations).
  10. Marine or air transit instructions: name of vessel or aircraft, voyage or airway bill number, date of departure and date of arrival at destination.

If you do all of the above and consult carefully with your transportation company, it will facilitate the easy movement of goods and customs clearance. Some countries require a signature on the commercial export invoice. To be on the safe side, add it along with your name and title printed legibly underneath.

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