Commercial Invoice

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A commercial invoice is a legal business document between a supplier and its customer that clearly describes the sold goods and amount due for payment by the customer.  It is a legal document issued by the seller (exporter) to the buyer (importer) in an international transaction and serves as a contract and a proof of sale between the buyer and seller.[1]

When used in foreign trade, a commercial invoice is a customs document. It is used as a customs declaration provided by the person or corporation that is exporting an item across international borders.[2]

Multiple Uses for a Commercial Invoice

According to, the commercial invoice also serves other purposes in a transaction. It can:

  • Be referenced as a supporting document for an insurance claim on a shipment.
  • Be used by the buyer to release funds from its bank to the seller.
  • Be reviewed by the bank that is reimbursing funds under a letter of credit or documentary collection
  • Serve as a record for U.S. export regulations, and as such must be retained by the exporter for five years from date of shipment.
  • Be used by exporters to support foreign credit risk insurance claims

Traditionally, in many shipping environments the commercial invoice is created by one of several systems (ERP, WMS, or by hand), then hand-carried and matched to the order at the point of shipment.

Electronic Commercial Invoice

Today, it is possible to have your shipping system generate the commercial invoice. Several multi-carrier shipping systems, including InfoShip®/Vx by CLS, produce the commercial invoice directly at the point of shipping from information that is electronically transmitted to these systems at the point of shipping. This eliminates manual tasks such as paper document preparation, sorting, collating, finding and matching documents (Including the commercial invoice) to shipments.

For a detailed description of the information that should be included on the commercial invoice, visit


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