If you run a business that involves international shipping, then you’re probably familiar with a commercial invoice. But if you’re just starting to expand your business overseas, you may have never used one before.
In this guide, you’ll learn when and why you need a commercial invoice, how to fill one out and the benefits of using commercial invoices.
What is a commercial invoice?
A commercial invoice is a document that provides information for border authorities, to help clear your goods through customs. It lets customs know what your goods are, where they are coming from, and any special attributes they need to know about. Customs authorities will look at a commercial invoice to determine if a shipment can be allowed in the country and if you have to pay any duties on it.
Courier services such as UPS or DHL also require a commercial invoice for international shipping, as it helps them transport the goods to the end customer.
When do you need a commercial invoice for shipping?
Anytime you export goods, you should have a commercial invoice. You also need one invoice for each shipment you send.
The format of a commercial invoice can vary, as long as the required information is included. Some countries may require you to use their specific templates. Canada has a Canada Customs Invoice that all US exporters must use for shipments valued at more than $2,500 (CAD).
The benefits of having a commercial invoice in shipping
Commercial invoices may be required, but they also provide several advantages that make the international shipping process go more smoothly.
A detailed commercial invoice provides more information for your customers. You can also use them to stay organized, evaluate sales, and calculate annual reports. If you end up with an insurance claim on the shipment, the main supporting document for the claim is the commercial invoice.
Commercial invoices make things easier for you, your customers, couriers, and border authorities.
What should a commercial invoice include?
The template for your commercial invoice might vary but it should always include the following required information:
- Date of export: Put the date you send out your shipment.
- Exporter or shipper: The sender is the one exporting, and all of their details must be included, such as company name, street address, contact name, phone number, email address, and the country being shipped from.
- Consignee: The recipient is the one who receives the package, and their information should include their company name, street address, contact name, phone number, email address, and the country being shipped to.
- Country of origin: Put the country the item or goods came from.
- Shipping number: This number comes from your carrier, such as FedEx or UPS. It’s also known as an air waybill number.
- Incoterms: These terms specify who’s responsible for paying for and managing various elements of the shipping process.
- Full description of the goods: Be as accurate as you can in describing your goods, and use brand names and model numbers for branded items.
- Quantity of goods: Use applicable measurements and state the quantity of each product you’re shipping.
- HS code: Label your goods with an HS code, or tariff code, so the authorities can charge you the proper tariffs.
- Declared value: Value is the market price of the goods and the currency. Declare the value per unit and the total value.
- Weight: Add the net and gross weight. Gross weight is the net weight plus the packaging.
- Insurance: List freight and insurance costs as separate items.
Other information you could include on your commercial invoice includes an invoice number for your internal purposes or comments for delivery instructions.
After filling out the commercial invoice, you must also add your name, sign and date it. Your shipment won’t be sent without your signature.
Getting a commercial invoice right is vital. If any of your details aren’t correct, you could face fines or penalties from the importing country.
Where do you find a commercial invoice?
If the country you are importing to doesn’t have a specific template you must follow, you can find your own template online. Courier services usually have commercial invoice forms you can download and fill out as well.
You can also ask a customs broker to assist you with filling out a commercial invoice, to ensure it has all the needed information. A customs broker can also help you assign the proper HS code to your shipment, as identifying this code can be difficult for less experienced exporters.
Getting a commercial invoice right with a customs broker
Exporting to the US and Canada requires a lot of accurately filled-out paperwork. Are you having trouble keeping your export papers in order? BorderBuddy can help ensure you have the correct documents for clearing your items through customs. We help you import your shipments into the US and Canada and make sure you stay compliant with customs regulations.
Contact us today with questions about your commercial invoice.