A commercial invoice must be provided to accompany any shipment that is not a document that will travel outside the European Union.
While it is true that most shipments within the European Union are considered to be in free circulation and do not require a commercial invoice, certain shipments within the EU, and even some domestic shipments are still controlled by customs. Please provide a commercial invoice for any customs-controlled shipment.
How to prepare an invoice
For an example PDF with fields for the elements described here filled in click here.
Please complete all relevant fields and print out. You should then sign and date the invoice.
Guidelines for preparing commercial invoices
Following these simple guidelines will help you ensure the trouble-free and timely delivery of your shipments.
An invoice accompanying your international consignment serves as the commercial statement or declaration of the contents, value and a number of other elements relevant to the transaction. This information will be used for both security and Customs purposes and can ultimately be used as evidence should any infringement occur.
Who should prepare the invoice?
Whoever provides the information in the invoice is responsible for its accuracy. For this reason and the possible legal consequences, a TNT member of staff should never produce an invoice, even on your behalf. It is advisable that a designated officer of your company prepares the invoice.
Using your company's letterhead paper is a good idea
It is not mandatory for invoices to be produced on company stationery, but invoices on letterhead paper are generally considered to be more credible than those on plain white paper.
A correct and appropriate title is important
A number of commonly used titles are not accepted by many authorities, who expect to see the 'genuine' or 'legitimate' invoice. Terms like 'Pro Forma' or 'For Customs Purposes Only' should be avoided at all times. Customs authorities reserve the right to reject such invoices as not fulfilling the criteria for declaration/entry purposes. For shipments without a financial transaction, such as samples, the document could be titled 'value declaration'.
Don't forget the details
Full address details for both the exporter (shipper) and the importer (recipient) should contain, in addition to the correct name and address, as much relevant detail as possible. This would at least include phone and fax numbers (including country codes), tax ID numbers (such as a VAT number), registration numbers with Customs if any, and so on.
Clearly describe all the contents of your shipment
The description of the goods you are shipping must be clear, meaningful, complete and accurate. That means more than just brand names and/or catalogue numbers, and must cover the entire contents of the shipment. If the HS Code - the Harmonised Tariff Code used by Customs to categorise goods - is known, it should be mentioned here. This will ensure a correct declaration is made to Customs, both at export and import. You can make a formal application to the Customs authorities to obtain a binding notice classification for your goods.
Where were the goods made?
The origin of the goods, defined as where the goods were produced or manufactured, is a required piece of information and should be mentioned at all times.
What are 'INCO' terms?
The 'INCO' terms, or International Commercial Terms, refer to different conditions under which a shipment is shipped to the receiver. They not only govern exactly when the ownership of the goods changes and under what conditions, but who will pay for duties, taxes, transportation costs, etc. They are typically expressed as a three-letter acronym based on a short description, such as FOB (Free On Board) and CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight).
Refer to the TNT consignment number
Reference to the physical shipment by mentioning the specific TNT consignment note number is always helpful and provides additional proof as to what goods are covered by the invoice.
True values are vital
The value on the invoice must be realistic and reflect the true market value of the goods being shipped. Even when sending unsolicited samples to potential customers, the value must reflect the value of that shipment as if it was being sold to them. For shipments with multiple content types, the values and the number of units of each must be broken down. In some cases, Customs may ask for proof of payment of the invoice to provide additional evidence that the invoice values shown are accurate.
Stating the amount of the shipping cost and detailing whether or not it is charged to the recipient is not only mandatory in a number of countries, it contributes to a correct and compliant declaration to Customs.
Sign and date it
A date and a signature complete the invoice. Signing states the information contained in the invoice is correct. The signature can also be accompanied by a phrase such as "I hereby certify the above information to be truthful and correct". Invoices are generally signed and dated by a designated officer of the company.
For an example PDF with fields for the elements described here filled in, click here.
Last but not least
If you think there may be a special customs clearance requirement for the country you are sending your shipment to, please call your local TNT Express Customer Service representative, who will provide appropriate advice. And if anything else is unclear, please call us - we're at your service and will be glad to help!
We have based these guidelines on the majority of worldwide customs regulations, but these can vary depending on the country and can also change without notice.
You can also check our customs and shipping updates for the latest information.
If you think there may be a special customs clearance requirement for the country you're sending your shipment to please call your local TNT Express Customer Service representative and we will provide suitable advice. And, of course, if anything else is unclear please call us - we're waiting to help!