Export Invoices and Commercial Invoices: Similarities and Differences

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Are you an exporter or an importer? If so, you’ve likely encountered export invoices and commercial invoices. These documents are crucial in international trade as they provide details about the shipped goods or services, involved parties, payment terms, and customs clearance. But what sets them apart? What are the commonalities in export and commercial billing? How and when should you create them? This blog post will explore the dissimilarities and resemblances between export and commercial invoices. By comparing export and commercial invoicing, we aim to help you grasp the fundamentals of both types.

What is an Export Invoice?

An export invoice is a formal document that outlines the particulars of goods or services supplied by an exporter and the corresponding amount owed by the importer. While its format resembles a standard tax invoice, an export invoice incorporates additional details specific to international trade transactions.

What is a Commercial Invoice?

A commercial invoice functions as an official export document, providing legal proof of a sale transaction between the buyer and the seller. Its primary purpose is to facilitate customs clearance and calculate applicable duties and taxes. The document comprehensively outlines the goods sold, including their detailed description, quantities, and pre-agreed values between the involved parties.

Content of Export Invoice 

  • Credentials of the Supplier:
    • Name, contact details and address, including email addresses and phone numbers, ensuring clear identification.
  • Credentials of the Buyer:
    • The recipient’s name, address, and contact details facilitate communication between parties.
  • GSTIN of Supplier:
    • The unique Goods and Services Tax Identification Number is assigned to registered taxable persons under the GST Act.
  • Details of Goods or Services:
    • Comprehensive information about the goods sold or services supplied, encompassing rates, quantities (for goods), and corresponding amounts.
  • Invoice Date:
    • The date the invoice is generated provides a reference point for the transaction.
  • Invoice Number:
    • A unique alphanumeric combination sequentially arranged to record and track various transactions.
  • Conversion Rate:
    • Reflecting the currency conversion for export transactions is essential when dealing with currencies other than the Indian rupee.
  • Amount:
    • The invoice’s total value includes insurance, freight, and taxes.
  • Type of Export:
    • Indication of whether the export is conducted under a bond or a letter of undertaking to a Special Economic Zone or after the payment of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST).
  • Details of Shipping Bill:
    • Information regarding the shipping bill, a detailed document filed with Customs to declare the type and value of goods intended for export.
  • Signature:
    • The supplier’s physical or digital signature is an authentication check for the authorised transaction.
  • Notes:
    • Any additional remarks or instructions by the supplier to the importer.

Content of Commercial Invoice 

Buyer’s details:

To ensure a smooth and transparent transaction, the buyer’s name, address, tax details, and contact information are crucial elements in a commercial invoice. These details establish the recipient of the goods and provide essential contact information for communication.

Seller’s details:

Equally important are the seller’s details, including their name, address, tax details, and contact information. This information is vital for the buyer to identify the source of the goods and facilitates effective communication between the parties involved.

Transaction details:

The invoice date, unique invoice number, and order number constitute the transaction details. These elements help organise and track the transaction, providing a reference point for both the buyer and the seller.

Goods description:

A commercial invoice includes a detailed description of the goods being transacted. This comprehensive information ensures clarity regarding the nature and specifications of the goods involved in the transaction.

Quantity and value:

Specifying the quantity and value of the goods is a fundamental aspect of a commercial invoice. This information aids in financial calculations, inventory management, and regulatory compliance.

Payment details:

The mode of payment and related instructions are outlined in this section, providing clarity on how the financial aspect of the transaction will be executed. It establishes the terms of payment agreed upon by the buyer and seller.

Regulatory details:

In adherence to regulatory requirements, the commercial invoice includes important identifiers such as the Importer Exporter Code (IEC) and Goods and Services Tax Identification Number (GSTIN). These details facilitate compliance with tax regulations.

Origin details:

The country of origin specifies where the goods originated. This information is crucial for customs and regulatory purposes, helping authorities determine the origin of the goods and apply relevant regulations.

Shipping information:

Details such as freight charges, export routes, and the date of shipment are essential for logistical purposes. This information aids in the planning and tracking of the load, ensuring a smooth and timely delivery process.

Logistics details:

Including the gross weight and the number of packages, logistics details provide a snapshot of the physical aspects of the shipment. This information is valuable for transportation and handling purposes throughout the supply chain.

Insurance information:

If applicable, the commercial invoice includes insurance charges, providing insights into the coverage secured for the shipment. This information is essential for risk management and ensures that the goods are adequately protected during transit.

Also Read: Recent Updates And Changes In ITC Rules And Regulations For E-Invoices

Similarities in export and commercial invoices

Documentation of Transactions:

Both commercial and export invoices serve as crucial documents in international trade, documenting and validating sale transactions between buyers and sellers.

Legal Evidence:

Both invoices act as legal evidence, providing a formal record of the goods or services exchanged and the terms agreed upon in the sale.

Customs Clearance:

Both documents are essential for customs clearance, aiding authorities in verifying the details of the shipped goods and ensuring compliance with regulations.

Differences between export and commercial invoices

Scope of Application:

Commercial invoices have a broader scope and can refer to any invoice used in commerce, including domestic transactions. In contrast, export invoices specifically pertain to international trade.

Elements Included:

While both invoices include details of the goods or services sold, the export invoice may encompass additional elements necessary for compliance with international trade regulations.

Customs and Tax Assessment:

The primary purpose of the commercial invoice is for customs clearance and the assessment of duties and taxes in domestic trade. On the other hand, the export invoice has a more extensive role in international trade, providing specific details required by customs authorities of different countries.

International Trade Regulations:

Export invoices are designed to comply with specific international trade regulations, including the inclusion of details necessary for cross-border transactions, such as shipping information and compliance with GST laws in the exporter’s country.


This focused on the distinctions between export and commercial invoice and how they are used in international trade. We have explained the export vs commercial invoice features, such as the format, content, and purpose of each invoice. We have also provided some examples and tips on effectively creating and using these invoices. By understanding the similarities and differences between export and commercial invoices, you can ensure that your invoicing practices are aligned with the global trade regulations and the GST system. This will help you avoid any legal issues, penalties, or disputes arising from improper invoicing practices. Moreover, this will help you enhance your reputation and credibility as a reliable and trustworthy exporter or importer in the international market. Therefore, it is essential to understand the basics of export and commercial invoices and follow the guidelines for creating them.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

  1. Can a commercial invoice be presented in foreign currency?

As per RBI Master Directions, there is no restriction on commercial invoices to contain foreign currency only. They may be presented in either freely convertible currency or Indian Rupees, providing flexibility in international trade transactions.

  1. What role does the exporter’s GSTIN and IEC Code play in an export invoice?

Including the Goods and Services Tax Identification Number (GSTIN) and Importer Exporter Code (IEC) in an export invoice is essential for regulatory compliance and identification purposes.

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Moulik Jain
I am a seasoned marketer specializing in Tax, Finance, and MSMEs. I bring a wealth of hands-on experience to demystify complex subjects, providing insightful guidance for entrepreneurs and finance enthusiasts alike.

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