For exporters shipping their products internationally, a commercial invoice is one of the most important documents completed in the export journey. This legal document is required to accompany your exports for customs clearance, duties and taxes purposes.
In this article, you’ll learn how the commercial invoice works, what it should include and how a fillable commercial invoice can streamline your documentation process.
What Is a Commercial Invoice?
A commercial invoice is the single document that describes the entire export transaction from start to finish. When completed properly, it provides important instructions and information to the buyer, the freight forwarder, U.S. and foreign customs, the import broker, the marine insurance company and both your bank and the buyer’s bank.
However, if done improperly, it can cause confusion, delays and disagreements. Make sure you’re getting it right by using the correct form. You can download a fillable commercial invoice template to use with your exports—absolutely free. (It’s just one of dozens of forms you can create using Shipping Solutions software.)
Who Needs a Commercial Invoice?
A standard commercial invoice is required for all exports, but some countries require a specific invoice instead of, or in addition to, the standard form. For example:
- Canada Customs Invoice: Canada requires that U.S. exporters include the Canada Customs Invoice for shipments to that country valued at more than $2,500 CAD unless the commercial invoice includes the additional data requirements.
- CARICOM Invoice: If your buyer is located in one of the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, they may request a CARICOM invoice regardless of the value of the shipment. This specialized form helps member countries more easily collect import data.
- Commercial Invoice for Exports to Israel: U.S. exporters who wish to qualify for preferential access to the Israeli market need to include a statement that declares that their goods qualify under the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement. Exporters must include this statement as well as all the standard information that is typically required on a commercial invoice.
What Data Elements Should Be Included in Your Commercial Invoice?
A correctly completed commercial invoice is a central document in the export process and should include the following key data points:
- An invoice date and number.
- Contact information for the seller and buyer.
- Delivery locations.
- Quantity, price and description of the goods, including the correct six-digit Harmonized System or Schedule B number.
- Additional freight and handling fees, if appropriate.
- The currency used for payment of the goods.
- The delivery terms usually expressed as one of the Incoterms 2020 terms.
- Payment terms.
- The Destination Control Statement.
To learn more about each of these elements and why they should be included, check out our article 10 Items That Belong on Your Export Commercial Invoices.
Pro Tip: The Best Way to Complete Your Commercial Invoice and All Your Export Forms
If the fillable commercial invoice is the only form you need for your export, go ahead and download it here. But chances are, it will be just one of several forms you need.
To stay compliant, and to make sure you don’t face expensive delays, the information on every single form needs to be accurate and consistent. The best way to guarantee consistency is to use Shipping Solutions export documentation software.
Eliminate Redundant Data Entry
Unlike filling out form after form by hand, the software allows you to fill out each data element in the commercial invoice just once—eliminating the need to reenter the same thing over and over, reducing the number of errors and helping you complete your forms up to five times faster.
One-Click AES Filings
For exports that require an electronic export information (EEI) filing through the Automated Export System (AES), you can do this directly within Shipping Solutions software without having to reenter all the information once again on the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) portal.
Chamberized Certificates of Origin
For exports to countries that require a stamp by a chamber of commerce, Shipping Solutions allows you to apply for a chamberized certificate of origin directly with a U.S.-based chamber. The certificate of origin can be provided to you overnight by courier if you need a paper version or within the same day in an electronic format that you can print out on your color printer.
Easy Export Compliance
And because compliance is a big deal for exporters of every size, Shipping Solutions software can help you stay compliant with the current U.S. export regulations. Shipping Solutions’ Export Compliance Module includes restricted party screening, export license determination and export document determination built right into the software. These tools help your companies stay compliant with U.S. export regulations and avoid fines and other penalties that could cost you—and your company—dearly.
The Easy Way to Create Accurate Export Forms
More than 3,000 successful U.S. exporters use Shipping Solutions to create accurate export forms, generate their certificates of origin, file through AESDirect and stay compliant with export regulations. Let us show you how your company can benefit as well!
Schedule a free online demo of the Shipping Solutions software. There’s absolutely no obligation. What do you have to lose?