Skip to content Logo

How To Create A Customs Invoice

International shipping can be tricky. There is a lot of paperwork which needs to be accounted for, and in accordance with the intended country's regulations. For one, in order to have a package clear customs, it is important to include a customs invoice. Getting the customs invoice right is important to avoid hefty fees and customs delays. If you are in the process of creating an invoice, we recommend you follow a few tips to ensure the shipment clears customs with ease.

customs clearance shipping trucking us canada pars tracker paps tracker customs commercial invoice

What Is A Customs Invoice? 

A customs invoice is an essential legal document in shipping and international trade, serving as a proof of sale and containing necessary information about the goods being shipped, such as description, quantity, value or amount due. Most international shipments which are crossing the border, do require a customs invoice. Any shipment without an invoice will be delayed and stuck at the border, so it is essential to complete the forms.

The invoice is used by customs officials to help determine whether the goods being imported are admissible to the country, as well as a series of other relevant information necessary for customs clearance. Some of the reasons an invoice is essential is due to its use in helping:

  • Assess taxes, duties or feeds to be paid on the shipment
  • Ensure safety in the case of any imports entering the country
  • Enforce  regulations and ensure rules are being followed
  • Make sure the shipment contents match the invoice information

A customs invoice informs border services about where the goods are headed and where they came from, classifies them in accordance to appropriate tariff code, outlines the reason for the goods being shipped, and reflects the monetary value of the goods. The parties involved, including who is paying for the goods and who is shipping them, as well as what is in each package is outlined in the invoice, so that customs has a clear idea of what is coming in, and can calculate duties, fees or taxes accordingly.

Accompanying the invoice, the Bill of Lading is another essential document in international trade, as the BOL acts as a receipt of the goods meanwhile the invoice outlines the financial details of the transaction. Ownership of goods is usually claimed on the BOL. However, the BOL number appears on the invoice.

Where Do You Find HS Codes?

Up until technology took over, original manufacturers of the goods were able to provide tariff or HS codes for the shipment. Government websites/pages provided the codes via an online lookup feature. Some could even call local tax authorities to find codes. However, with the rise of technology, Zipments is able to use AI technology to automatically generate the correct tariff code as you are completing your customs invoice, saving you both time and effort. To access any tariff code you need, simply complete your invoice using the platform. 

Is A Customs Invoice The Same As A Pro Forma Invoice?

Though similar, a pro forma invoice is not actually a customs invoice and can’t be used as such, rather it is a preliminary document sent in the early stages, where negotiations may be ongoing between buyer and seller. The details are not finalized and the invoice is not legally as binding or effective as the customs or commercial invoice. You cannot use a pro forma invoice to request payment nor can you substitute it for a customs invoice. However, some of the preliminary information or detail on the pro forma may still be present on the final customs invoice, if negotiation allows.

What Happens If My Invoice Is Rejected

If you find that there has been an issue with the invoice at customs, then usually it is due to improperly filled out form fields and missing details. When the invoice is incorrectly filled out, it affects calculation of the customs duties and fees or taxes, which can cause delay and problems. Depending on the reason for the rejection, there may be penalties or fees to be paid by the exporter as a result of improper invoices.

How To Fill Out a Customs Invoice

When you are exporting to Canada or the U.S., a customs invoice is essential. In some cases, an invoice is not needed if the goods are below a certain threshold of value. As of now, formal entry using a customs or commercial invoice would be needed for goods exceeding $2500 in value, but these numbers do change over time. When shipping to the U.S., the customs invoice is similar format to Canada, and will contain some of the same fields in terms of required information.  Some of the details which must be included on a customs invoice include:

  • Country of Origin
  • HS codes
  • Date of shipment
  • Currency of the sale
  • Value
  • Quantity and Weight
  • Insurance Fees
  • Shipper and Consignee Details
  • Terms of Payment
  • Clear item descriptions
However, you do not need to manually worry about each of the required fields, as you can use the Zipments customs invoice forms, with pre-generated form fields, AI generated tariff codes, and easy to follow template; so that you do not miss any relevant details.

canada customs invoice

us customs invoice cbp

Mistakes to Avoid When Completing A Customs Invoice

Inaccurate Descriptions: When filling out the customs invoice, it is essential to be detailed and clear on the goods you are shipping. Vague or inaccurate descriptions of the items in the shipment can lead to issues, and usually if the products are misrepresented, the sale or shipment is subject to cancellation or customs delay. 

Inaccurate Contact Information: Having accurate contact information on the invoice is essential for communication and ease of shipment. Any incorrect addresses or contact information can lead to shipments being delivered to the wrong location or held in warehouses, and lack of correct contact information may even delay the process as there is lack of proper communication between the parties involved. 

Inaccurate Classifications: Shipments can be heavily delayed if there are wrong HS codes used when completing the invoice. This error can be avoided by using the Zipments customs invoice generator, as technology scans for the appropriate code, with less chance of error or confusion. You also want to ensure that the Tax ID number of the importer is present in order for the paperwork to be processed.  

International shipping can be a complicated process, but it does not have to be difficult. Don't leave customs and clearance to chance. Remember the vital information on your customs invoice, as the clearance process does depend on it. Once you know what the requirements are, the process can be quite easy with the right technology.

Blog comments