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What is a Commercial Invoice?

A commercial invoice is a legal document between the supplier (consignor) and the customer (consignee). This document should include payment details, instructions, and terms.

What is the difference between the Packing List and the Commercial Invoice?

While the information contained within the packing list and commercial invoice may appear to be the same, the two documents serve very different purposes. The packing list provides the exporter, the international freight forwarder, and the ultimate consignee with information about the shipment. This list also includes details about how the shipment is packed and the marks and numbers that are noted on the outside of the boxes.

This document serves a more logistical purpose and is required in the event of any disputes or claims that may arise with the shipping line, customs, or between the buyer and seller for goods. It is also used to verify that all merchandise shipped by the exporter is received in good order and condition, as well as for stock-keeping and inventory purposes.

Why is a Commercial Invoice Required?

The commercial invoice is one of the most important documents in international trade, and the information contained within this document is used to create the customs declaration. Customs checks the validity of the invoice by ensuring that it would comply with the laws of the country of export. Countries like Australia, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, will always have the following minimum information on a real tax or commercial invoice:

  • The document is intended to be a tax invoice.
  • The seller’s identity.
  • The purchaser’s identity.
  • The seller’s unique business number (for example in Australia it is an ABN).
  • The date the invoice was issued.
  • A brief description of the items sold, including the quantity (if applicable) and the price.
  • Reference to the GST or VAT amount (if any), or identification of 0% for export.

What information should be included?

Although there is no standard format, the commercial invoice must include a few specific pieces of information, such as the parties involved in the shipping transaction, the goods being transported, the country of manufacture, and the Harmonized System codes for those goods. A commercial invoice should also include a statement certifying that the invoice is true, and a signature.

You can learn more information about invoices by downloading our information booklet here.

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