The difference between a Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice

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A Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice document used in trade.

Proforma Invoices and Commercial Invoices are important documents used in the global trade process.


What is a Proforma Invoice?

First, a Proforma Invoice document is an important sales document that seller of goods creates.  When there is an confirmed International Order, the seller will create a Proforma Invoice document and send it to the buyer.  

Obviously, this document will confirm the details of the new order. Also, it usually includes the seller’s bank details to request payment. Also, it’s important to note that a Proforma Invoice is issued before the goods have been produced or delivered.

Read more about Proforma Invoices here.


What is a Commercial Invoice?

A Commercial Invoice document is issued to the buyer after the goods have been delivered or shipped.  Also, the commercial invoice format is essentially the same as a proforma invoice. But importantly, the commercial invoice confirms the exact quantity of the products that have actually been loaded and shipped.

Read more about Commercial Invoices here.

So, what is the difference between a Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice?

The 2 documents are essentially the same thing, the difference may be that the final quantity on the Commercial Invoice can be different.  Moreover, the quantity of products ordered (from the Proforma Invoice) is often different to the actual quantity of goods that have been shipped (Commercial Invoice). However, this is common in global trade.

However, this difference in quantity of products supplied can be due to many reasons. Certainly the most commonly it’s because suppliers can have manufacturing issues. Other reason is the suppliers did not correctly plan how many products would actually fit inside shipping containers.  

To explain, please read more about some of the common shipping delays.  After the goods have been shipped, buyers, Freight Forwarders and Customs will require a set of shipping documents. For the reason that to clear the goods into the country of import.  So, the seller will provide the buyer with a “set” of shipping documents. This includes a Bill of Lading (proof of shipment), Commercial Invoice, Packing List and any other shipping documents as required.

Read how a Proforma Invoice works with a Purchase Order.
Read how to digitally countersign Proforma Invoices and Purchase Orders with your own digital company stamp and seal.


Trade documents with digital signatures


After all, what information is included on Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice documents?

  • Seller’s company name, address and contact details
  • Buyer’s company name, address and contact details
  • Method of Dispatch – Road, Rail, Air or Seafreight
  • Type of shipment – FCL, LCL, Breakbulk or other
  • Port of Loading and Port of Discharge (seaport or airport)
  • Reference Number and Date
  • Delivery Date
  • Terms / Method of Payment
  • Product Descriptions – including item codes, product descriptions, Unit Quantity, Unit Type, Price
  • Incoterm® – The selling term agreed
  • Any additional information
  • Bank Details – the Proforma Invoice can include bank details requesting the buyer to make a payment
  • Name, date and signature of authorized company representative

 See below examples of Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice templates for global trade:


For example: Proforma Invoice and Commercial Invoice documents made using IncoDocs

How to Create a Proforma Invoice Document for Export

How to Create a Commercial Invoice Document

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