What is so special about a commercial invoice?

Reading time: 4 min.
The signature and the current date complete the commercial invoice. It makes sense to create three copies per delivery.

A commercial invoice is an important document for international trade, as it is used by customs authorities to classify a delivery. We show you here what the document must contain and what companies in the UK must pay attention to.

Commercial invoice: Meaning

A commercial invoice is a document that is necessary for international trade. It contains important information that plays an important role in customs clearance:

  • Listing of what is in the package
  • Listing of the amounts of goods
  • Details of the transmitter and receiver
  • Shipping terms
  • Signature of sender and date
Nouveau call-to-action

Commercial invoice vs. invoice

While an invoice is only relevant for the recipient, the commercial invoice is a document for customs, i.e. a customs declaration. Customs officials use it to identify what is being imported or exported from a country and what taxes and fees are due for it.

If you fill out a commercial invoice incompletely or incorrectly, this can lead to long delays in delivery, because customs will then have to contact the sender and hold the package until all questions have been clarified.

In the worst case, you may even face fines or prosecution if, for example, the package contains goods that are not allowed to be imported into the country or goods that are not declared on the commercial invoice.

Agicap UK demo logo - women typing on keyboard

Why do you need a commercial invoice?

A commercial invoice is required whenever goods are shipped internationally, i.e. when a package has to pass through customs clearance. Since the UK left the European Union and thus the EU free trade zone, British companies need a commercial invoice when exporting goods to the EU.

Similarly, EU companies must provide a commercial invoice when exporting goods to the UK.

Who provides the commercial invoice

A commercial invoice must always be filled out by the sender. It is attached to the package so that customs can access it without having to open the package.

Note that you only need a commercial invoice if you are sending your shipment with an international courier. If you are using Royal Mail, you will need to complete a CN22 or CN23 form instead of a commercial invoice.

What should a commercial invoice include?

There is no standard format for a commercial invoice. The sender is therefore free to choose the format, but must ensure that it contains the mandatory information listed in the first section of this article. Here again at a glance:

  1. Listing of what is in the package
  2. Listing of the amounts of goods
  3. Details of the transmitter and receiver
  4. Shipping terms
  5. Signature of sender and date

Commercial invoice template for UK

A commercial invoice can be divided into different sections according to the points above and thus create a template.

To Name: Business name: Address: Phone no.:

From Name: Business name: Address: VAT no.: EORI no.: Inbound VAT no.: Inbound EORI no.:

EORI stands for Economic Operator's Registration and Identification. When a company in the UK exports goods to or imports goods from the EU, it needs such a number.


Description Quantity Net weight (kg) Currency Value HS code Country of origin
Item #1 3 0.5 GBP 200.00 XXXX.XX Great Britain
Item #2 2 0.7 GBP 100.00 XXXX.XX Great Britain
TOTAL 2.9 GBP 800.00

The HS (Harmonised System) code identifies the type of goods and is used by customs to determine the associated taxes. A table with HS codes and further information can be found here, for example: https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff

Shipping Information

  • Category: e.g. "commercial goods", "sample", "gift", "return of sale".
  • Invoice no.: e.g. 12345
  • Incoterm: e.g. DAP
  • Track & trace no.: e.g. DHL12345678
  • Office of origin: e.g. DHL

The term "incoterm" stands for international commercial terms. The abbreviations describe the agreed terms of delivery between sender and recipient. DAP (Delivered at place) refers, for example, to the agreed place of delivery and destination of the goods, e.g. a port terminal or the consignee's company headquarters.

Sign the commercial invoice

  • Signature of the sender
  • Date

The signature and the current date complete the commercial invoice. It makes sense to create three copies per delivery: one for the exporting country, one for the importing country and one for the recipient. The copies for the two countries are attached to the outside of the delivery in a transparent envelope; the third copy for the recipient is placed in the package.

Subscribe to our newsletter

You may also like