A commercial invoice is a document that records the sale of goods or services between two parties, typically between a buyer and seller. It is an integral part of international trade, as it serves as an itemized list of goods sold and shipped from one party to another. It also serves as proof of purchase for both the buyer and seller and can be used for customs clearance when shipping goods across borders.

Commercial invoices are essential to any business’s export or import process. They are presented to customs authorities, who use the documents to assess the amount due on taxes.

What is Commercial Invoice and Its Importance

Enables You to Maintain Reliable Records

Keeping accurate records of all transactions and purchases is essential in any business environment. Companies use commercial invoices for export to maintain accurate records for both the buyer and the seller. This document can provide vital information about each transaction, such as the item purchased, its cost, applicable taxes, delivery terms, and payment information. Not only does this help with bookkeeping and filing taxes, but it also provides evidence of a sale should there be any disputes or discrepancies.

Creating a commercial invoice can be easy and quick. With modern computer systems and accounting software programs available today, it’s easier than ever before to create an invoice that meets industry standards for accuracy and compliance without having any technical knowledge or special skills.

Detailed Sales Evidence

For any business transaction, having proof of sale is essential. A commercial invoice is a form of proof of sale that provides an itemized list of goods and services that a seller has sold to a buyer. The invoice includes the item description, quantity, price, and total amount due for the purchase. It also records payments made by the buyer to the seller and is often accompanied by other documents, such as delivery notes and payment receipts.

In addition to providing evidence of what has been purchased, a commercial invoice can help buyers with tax returns or insurance claims. It also serves as an important record-keeping tool for both businesses involved in the transaction since it contains information that may be required at some point in time during routine operations or audits.

Written Agreement for Payments

It serves as a legal agreement for goods or services purchased or sold and outlines the need for payment, including how much, when, and where the payment should be made. As such, it’s essential to understand what guarantees there are that payment will be made according to the terms of the invoice.

The most common form of guarantee is a letter of credit (L/C). A bank issues this on behalf of one party involved in an international transaction and guarantees that payment will be made according to the terms laid out in the commercial invoice. The bank will only issue this once both parties have agreed on all aspects of their agreement, including quantity and price, as well as other conditions relating to transport costs and delivery dates.

A Formal Notice Of Payment Due

In today’s world, it’s a challenge to get paid on time. Commercial invoices are a great tool for businesses to keep track of payments and customer relationships. With commercial invoices, you can keep track of your customers’ payments in real-time and be sure you’re getting paid for your goods and services in time.

Proof of Customs Declaration

A commercial invoice serves as a form of proof for customs when goods are delivered across borders. The document contains the buyer and seller’s contact details, product description and quantity, and unit price of each item.

With this document, authorities could verify that taxes or tariffs have been paid on imported or exported merchandise.

Prevents Fraud

The commercial invoice can be used as proof of payment. If a dispute occurs, the buyer cannot avoid dealing with the seller by simply ignoring the commercial invoice and holding him/her responsible for any payment deficiencies. This is because commercial invoices are detailed and often include itemized details of fees and expenses, which can be used to prove that all taxes were paid on time or in advance. It is important to note that the invoice is used as evidence of purchase because it details the transaction and can be opened up for transparency. This makes it difficult for anyone to try and cheat their way through international shipping.

Indian Laws on Commercial Invoices

In India, understanding laws related to commercial invoices form is important for businesses to ensure that all their transactions are conducted within the guidelines of Indian tax authorities.

The CBIC requires certain mandatory documents to be submitted as part of the import or export system. One among these is a commercial invoice. As per Circular No. 01/15-Customs.

The Indian government mandates that businesses issue invoices with a unique identification number (GSTIN) that helps track payments. They also must include the HSN code that helps make the GST universal and systematic, as these codes classify different products based on their nature.

After submitting the commercial invoice and packing details, the Customs authorities confirmed both documents fulfilled the criteria required for document import or export procedures.

The Foreign Trade Policy requires that you submit the following documents to carry out import and export activities:

  • Airway bill/bill of lading
  • Commercial invoice cum packing list
  • Shipping bill


Contents of a Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice you create for an export shipment should include, but is not limited to, items in the checklist below and will reflect the details specified in the quotation, purchase order, and order acknowledgment.

To avoid any problems at customs, exporters must ensure that all the required information is provided in the correct format on invoices for shipping and export. The following information should be included on invoices for shipping and export:

  • The name, address, and contact information of the exporter’s company
  • The importer’s contact information, including the name and address of the company.
  • Their contact information is required if the buyer is not primarily a consignee.
  • Details of dispatching method (road, rail, air, or sea)
  • Port names, discharge ports, and destinations
  • Date and invoice number
  • The reference number on the Shipping Bill of Lading document, Marine cover policy number, Letter of Credit number, and Reference number on the Air waybill document [if applicable]
  • A description of the terms or method of payment (optional).


The commercial invoice is integral to any business owner who buys or sells goods internationally. Commercial invoices are also useful for businesses shipping to a country or region with different customs laws.

The document serves as concrete proof of what has been agreed upon between two parties and ensures that everything operates within legal boundaries. Businesses looking to engage in international trade should always be aware of a commercial invoice and how it must be filled out accurately to avoid any disputes or misunderstandings down the line.

Ensure that you are prepared when you ship or export your goods—got questions about freight rates, international customs documentation, or any other shipping concerns? Contact NimbusPost to get help saving money on shipping and navigating refunds, cost breakdowns, and more.


FAQs on Commercial Invoice

What is the difference between a commercial invoice and an invoice?

It can be confusing when it comes to understanding invoices and the difference between a commercial invoice and an invoice. A commercial invoice is a document that records the sale of goods or services from one party to another and contains details such as pricing, quantity, item description, shipping information, and payment terms. It serves as proof of transaction for both parties involved in the sale.

An invoice is similar but serves as a request for payment instead. An invoice will usually list the goods or services provided, applicable taxes, and discounts applied to the total amount due. Both documents are essential for accurate accounting when conducting business transactions between entities.

What is the difference between a tax invoice and a commercial invoice?

What is the difference between a tax invoice and a commercial invoice? Although both invoices are used for business transactions, they serve different purposes. For example, a commercial invoice is issued to give customers detailed information about their purchase, while a tax invoice is used to calculate sales taxes that the customer must pay.

A commercial invoice typically contains the buyer’s and seller’s contact information, product descriptions with quantity and price, terms of sale such as shipping costs or discounts, payment instructions, and method of shipment. Tax invoices also include this same information but need to include an itemized list of purchased products so sales tax can be accurately calculated. This is why tax invoices contain additional fields such as GST/HST number and other government-mandated requirements that vary regionally.

What is the difference between export invoices and commercial invoices?

A commercial invoice means goods being shipped across domestic borders or internationally. It contains important information such as the seller’s name and address, the buyer’s name and address, and details about the item being sold, including a description of it, the quantity purchased, the price per unit, and the total cost with any applicable taxes or discounts included. The document also includes terms of payment and shipment instructions. A commercial invoice serves as evidence for customs officials when goods cross international borders and proof of purchase for buyers and sellers.

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