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Getting paid:How to create an export invoice

View transcript for Episode 6 - How to create an export invoice recording
Export invoices, also called commercial invoices, are essential for customs clearance. They provide key information about what is being bought or sold, assist the release of funds for payment, and can be used for insurance claims. So it’s vital they're completed correctly. Here’s what you need to include:

Firstly, the invoice number. This needs to include the date of issue.

Secondly, details of the seller and buyer. Make sure you have the full name, address and contact details of both.

You may also need to include details of the final recipient, known as ‘the consignee’, if they’re different to the buyer.

You’ll need the number and date of related paperwork. This might be a proforma invoice, purchase order or sales contract.

Then you’ll need to include details of unit price, method of payment, currency, and any discounts.

Next, you’ll be required to include details on weight and the number of goods being delivered.

You’ll be required to include harmonised system codes, also known as a commodity, or tariff codes.

What you’ll learn

  • the purpose of an export invoice
  • why it's important to get elements such as HS codes right
  • the information you'll need to compile the invoice

Export invoices

If you ship goods overseas, you must include an export invoice, also referred to as a commercial invoice, with the shipment. It acts a basic statement of what is being bought and sold. It also includes important transaction numbers, serves to release funds for payment and can be used for insurance claims.

Export invoices are essential for customs clearance. The information dictates what rates of duty are paid, and whether your goods are subject to UK or overseas restrictions. It’s crucial to give the correct details and classification codes on the document.

To avoid problems with payment, invoice information should tally exactly what you have in any form of a bank collection document, such as a Letter of Credit.

Commercial invoices contain more information than a normal invoice. This can help the buyer or carrier tie up what you’ve sent with what’s been ordered, and ensure any related processes and paperwork happens smoothly.

When you’re compiling your invoice, you should include:

  1. Invoice number

    Include date of issue.

  2. Details of the seller and buyer

    Full name, address and contact details of both.

  3. Details of the final recipient of the goods

    Also known as “the consignee”. If this is the same as your buyer, you don’t need to add it.

  4. Number and date of related paperwork

    This could be the proforma invoice, purchase order or sales contract related to the goods.

  5. Unit price, method of payment, currency and any discounts or additional charges

    Think about this very early on - currency exchange rates can make a great deal of difference to your profit margins . This should be part of your negotiations with your buyer - both parties need to be clear on what’s been agreed.

  6. Weight and number of goods

    Quantity, gross and net weight of goods and number, weight and type of packages.

  7. The harmonised system (HS) code and a plain English description of the product

    The HS code is also known as a commodity or tariff code.

  8. Incoterms

    Be sure these have been agreed with the buyer. Learn more, in our

  9. Any identifying marks and numbers on packaging

    For example, this could be 1 of 6 boxes, 2 of 6 and so on.

  10. Country of origin of the goods

    Depending on your market, you may need to make a declaration with specific wording, and this may have to be made in the language of the market.  Your buyer or local Chamber of Commerce should be able to advise. 

  11. Transport details

    Means of transport and route.

  12. Value

    Total value of the goods.

  13. Any additional charges or costs

    This could include as freight and insurance and any certification or legalisation costs.

  14. Additional language versions (if needed)

    Most export invoices sent from the UK are in English, with no need to translate. Occasionally, you may need to create an invoice in English and your buyer’s language. Consult with your buyer and your transportation company if you need advice.

  15. Certification (if needed)

    Some countries require invoices to be certified by a Chamber of Commerce or embassy. Your local Chamber of Commerce should be able to tell you the requirements of your target market.

Don’t cut corners on this – it’s not just a duplicate of your UK invoices. HS codes are especially important to get right. Tax and duties will vary according to classification number, and you’re also liable legally if you’ve misclassified.

International trade adviser

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