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If you're an eCommerce merchant, you've probably heard about commercial invoices. But maybe you've never used on because you've only shipped domestically with couriers like USPS or FedEx.
If you plan on expanding your business and shipping internationally, then you're going to need to understand commercial invoices.
We'll cover the basics in this article and how Easyship can help you streamline the process of creating, printing and downloading a commercial invoice.
What is a Commercial Invoice?
A commercial invoice is the primary document used for detailing the price, value and quantity of goods being sold. It is the document used to determine taxes and duties and is required for a package to clear customers. For this reason, it is the most important document needed when you're shipping internationally.
Think of this document as not just an invoice or a receipt, but rather a "biography" of the package. The customs office reads this bio to determine if you owe taxes and duties. Your courier service, whether that's UPS or DHL or FedEx, will also use the commercial invoice to transport your shipment from customs to the end-customer.
Commercial Invoices Are Vital To International eCommerce
Commercial invoices are important for both B2B and B2C companies. Shipping to foreign destinations can be tricky, but as long as you provide the proper documents, it will go smoothly.
Besides getting your package through customs, commercial invoices help you:
- Provide your customer additional details on their order
- Help businesses evaluate sales and calculate annual reports
- Can be used to discover insights on target markets for specific products
- Can be an organized way to help with cash flow
- Inform your courier where to deliver the package
How to Create and Correctly Fill out a Commercial Invoice
Commercial invoices have a universal format that needs to be followed so it can easily be processed. You can find many templates online for free, in addition to paid, premium options. With Easyship, a commercial invoice based on your shipment information is automatically created for every international shipment.
Filling out a commercial invoice isn't as complicated as you think. Below is an example of a commercial invoice that is automatically generated with Easyship:
Let's go through each section of the invoice.
- Air waybill number: This is the number you'll find on your courier's shipping label.
- Date of export: Date of your shipment
- Invoice number: Unique number your store uses for billing purposes
- Ref number: In this case, this is the Easyship shipping reference number
- Exporter / Shipper: These are the details for the sender. Includes Company Name, Street Address, Contact Name, Contact Phone or Fax Number, Email Address, and Country from where the shipment is being shipped from
- Ship to / Consignee: These are details for the recipient. Includes Company Name, Street Address, Contact Name, Contact Phone or Fax Number, Email Address, and Country that the shipment is being shipped to
- Items / Qty / Part #: The quantity, rate and amount of the items in the package
- Full description of goods: A clear description of the item which may include model number and style.
- Country of origin: Where the item came from
- Harmonised code: The special code used by the World Customs Organization to classify the item
- Unit value: The amount you sold the item for
- Total value: Total amount of the item(s)
- Total weight: Weight of the package
- Shipment term: How the taxes will be handled. DDU: Deliver Duty Unpaid or DDP: Deliver Duty Paid. Learn what DDU and DDP means.
At the bottom, you'll have:
- Declaration and signing to validate the information in the invoice by the sender
- You might also see a stamp, date, and signature by the customs authority that the package went through
If you want to create your own commercial invoice or use a template, the following websites can help you get started:
How to Print and Download a Commercial Invoice with Easyship
Once commercial invoice is generated, you can easily download and print them through the Easyship dashboard. Here's how:
- Go to: Manage Shipment>To Download
- Click on the 'To Download' link
- Checkbox all the shipments for which you would like to download
- Your shipping documents will be downloaded as .Zip files to the download folder.
- Go to the folder where you downloaded and print the documents
For more detailed instructions, check out our help center article.
Where to Attach a Commercial Invoice for International Delivery
After you download and print the commercial invoice, it should be attached to the package along with the shipping label. This way, couriers like USPS or UPS can see them clearly.
On cardboard boxes, use a clear packing sleeve or packing tape to affix the commercial invoice. For packing tape, be sure to tape all four sides of the invoice to assure it is tightly affixed.
Create Your Shipping Documents with Easyship
Easyship simplifies the process of creating your commercial invoice, shipping labels and other shipping documents. You can automate all label generation for your next order within the dashboard. With each international shipment, all the proper documents are automatically generated for you to easily download and print.
Sign up now for a free Easyship account to supercharge your international shipping!
If you found this article informative, you might enjoy the following:
- What are the Main Shipping Documents?
- Shipping Glossary
- DDU vs DDP - Understanding the differences in Terms of Shipping
Commercial Invoices FAQ
Is there any difference between commercial and customs invoices?
Yes. A commercial invoice is a document that helps customs officers to process your imported goods. It includes details like the parties involved in the shipping transaction, the goods transported, the country of manufacture, and the Harmonized System codes for those goods.
A customs invoice is an extension to a commercial invoice. This form includes details like the selling price, insurance amount, and other pricing details that customers offers need to determine the value of the imported goods when assessing tax and duty amounts.
Do I need a commercial invoice for gifts?
If you're sending a gift across borders, you use a pro forma invoice instead of a commercial invoice.
What is a consignee on a commercial invoice?
The consignee, or the person who the package is being consigned to, is the name and address of the person or company the listed goods are being delivered to.