Commercial Invoice

Commercial Invoice


Navigating the world of international shipping can be quite a maze. It’s a journey with multiple stages, a plethora of considerations, and a heap of paperwork you’ll have to deal with. All these elements come together to pave the way for a smooth shipping process.

The Commercial Invoice stands out as one of the most critical documents that you’ll always need when shipping globally. In this piece, we’re going to decode this crucial document for you. We’ll explore what it is, its purpose, the essential details it needs to carry, and much more. So, buckle up and let’s dive right in!

What is a Commercial Invoice for International Shipping?

A commercial invoice is a pivotal document essential for global shipping, notably for achieving customs clearance. Customs officials rely on it to calculate the taxes and import duties payable for the specific items you’re transporting.

Possessing a thorough and accurate commercial invoice for customs clearance can make the clearance process of your merchandise effortless, substantially reducing the chance of setbacks or complications. Your business flow remains uninterrupted, and your goods reach their destination on time. Keep it clean, keep it clear, and customs clearance will be smooth sailing

What is a Commercial Invoice Used For?

The commercial invoice is a crucial tool for customs authorities in your import country. It equips them with the necessary info to conduct all the formalities needed to process and clear your cargo, such as:

  • Calculating the applicable taxes and import duties for your shipment
  • Verifying if the cargo complies with all the import requirements
  • Extracting information necessary for customs clearance in the destination country

While the commercial invoice is a cornerstone of international shipping, it’s not always required. For instance, in the EU and its member countries, a commercial invoice might not always be mandatory. But, exceptions may exist. So, if you’re shipping to this region, it’s worth doing your homework on their specific rules regarding the shipping invoice and customs requirements.

What Information is Required in a Commercial Invoice?

Filling out a commercial invoice can feel like a daunting task as it demands precise and comprehensive information about the shipper, consignee, and the cargo. It might seem tedious, but it’s vital to get it spot-on to avoid any hiccups or delays with your shipment.

The information required in a commercial invoice includes:

Invoice Information

The heart of the commercial invoice lies in specific key details. This section will require the following particulars:

  • Invoice number or reference number
  • Invoice date of issue
  • Order number of the goods

Shipper Information

This portion seeks specifics about the sender of the goods, encompassing:

  • Name of the shipper or sender
  • Complete address of the shipper or sender, including the postal code or zip code and the city name
  • Telephone number of the shipper or sender
  • Fax number of the shipper or sender
  • Value added tax (VAT) reference number for countries which require the VAT
  • Country where the shipper or sender is located

Consignee Information

This section requires specifics about the person set to receive the goods at the destination. It calls for the following details:

  • Name of the receiver
  • Complete address of the receiver, including the postal code or zip code and the city name
  • Telephone number of the receiver
  • Fax number of the receiver
  • Value added tax (VAT) reference number for countries which require the VAT
  • Country where the receiver is located
  • Notify party or the point person who should be notified when the goods arrive
  • Notify party’s address

Shipping Information

This part calls for details about the specific shipment or mode of shipment. It encompasses:

  • Bill of Lading (BOL) or Air Way Bill (AWB) number
  • Forwarding agent or the name of the shipping company or freight forwarder
  • Date of export or shipping date
  • Mode of payment for the shipment

Shipment Information

This section corresponds to the necessary details for the specific goods being shipped, including:

  • Quantity or number of pieces
  • Specification of commodities or a description of the goods in subject
  • Gross weight of each piece of the goods
  • Quantity of the goods in the cargo
  • Unit price or the value of each item
  • Amount of each set of goods
  • Total weight of the shipment
  • Currency used for the pricing or value of the goods
  • Total amount or value of the shipment
  • Country of origin
  • Name of the sender
  • Signature of the sender or the company stamp of the freight forwarder/ shipping company.

Commercial Invoice vs. Customs Invoice/ Declaration 

While both a commercial invoice and a customs declaration request information about the shipment and specific goods, they are distinct documents with different information and functions.

The commercial invoice is classified as an export document necessary for all international shipments. It houses details related to the goods, the shipment, as well as the Incoterms or agreements between the parties. This document is crucial for customs authorities as it aids them in determining the cost of taxes or import duties.

Contrastingly, a customs declaration, also known as a CN22 or CN23 form, is used for goods shipped by a postal company. These forms contain information about the goods and assist customs authorities in deciding whether or not any taxes are due for your shipment. The choice between a CN22 or CN23 form depends on the value and weight of your shipment.

In essence, CN22 or CN23 forms are only required for cargo shipped via a postal service. A commercial invoice, however, is mandatory for all international shipments.


A commercial invoice is an indispensable aspect of the international shipping process. Neglecting or overlooking it will likely result in complications with customs clearance. Now that you have a more precise understanding of what it encompasses, you’re better equipped to fill out your commercial invoice comprehensively and accurately.



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