Shipping Essentials

Gain essential knowledge in our Shipping Essentials category, covering key topics such as Incoterms, FOB and EXW trade terms, and commercial invoices with packing lists. Understand the implications of Incoterms, the distinctions between FOB and EXW, and the importance of accurate documentation in international trade.

What Is a Commercial Invoice and Packing List?

To allow your shipment to clear customs when it arrives in the USA, it needs to be accompanied by a properly completed commercial invoice and packing list.

What is a shipment’s commercial invoice?

Your shipment’s commercial invoice is part of the documentation you need to supply to make a customs declaration when importing goods to the USA. It shows the number of products you are shipping, as well as their value.

What is shown on a commercial invoice?

  • The name and address of the supplier or manufacturer of the goods.
  • The name and address of the company or individual who is buying the goods contained within the shipment, detailing whether or not this person is also the importer.
  • The name and address of the company or individual that the goods in the shipment are being sent to.
  • The shipment’s country of origin – where the goods in the shipment were manufactured.
  • The number of individual items of each different type of product in the shipment.
  • A short, detailed description of each product, which tells customs officers what the product is, what it is made from, and what it is used for or intended for. For instance, just describing a product as a child’s toy is not enough – a better description would be “plastic building brick toys for children aged 4-7.” The item’s SKU itself is not counted as a product description.
  • The value (per unit) of each product in the shipment. This information should be supplied in both US dollars, and the currency used by the initial supplier or originator. Every item in the shipment must have a stated value – so you cannot indicate a value of zero for the purposes of clearing customs. If you aren’t paying for the goods within the shipment for any reason, use the average market value for each product instead.

What is a shipment’s packing list?

A packing list is used as part of a customs declaration to document the number of items within your shipment, along with their dimensions and weight, and the number of cartons that the goods are shipped in.

Both the commercial invoice and the packing list make up an important part of your customs declaration, and it is important that the information used on each of these documents matches the other – for example, when it comes to the number of items of each type of product within the order.

If you aren’t quite sure how to create or fill in your packing list or commercial invoice, get in touch with us and we’ll help you out.

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