Understanding Commercial Invoice Requirements When Importing to the U.S.

May 16, 2023

The Commercial Invoice for U.S. Customs 

If you're an import manager or a compliance manager, you're probably aware of how complex and detailed the regulations around importing to the US can be. Among all the documents required for importation, the commercial invoice is vital. It is essential to understand commercial invoice requirements when importing to the US to reduce delays in the customs clearance process and avoid costly penalties. An official outline of Commercial invoice requirements can be found in 19 CFR § 141.86. While navigating the CFR may be a breeze for some, Strix is here to offer you a better understanding of the commercial invoice requirements in the following outline. In this post, we'll take a closer look at the commercial invoice and the essential information it should contain.

1. What is a commercial invoice?

A commercial invoice is a document that provides detailed information on the goods being shipped, including their value, description, and country of origin. The commercial invoice is used by customs officials to ensure that the goods comply with all relevant regulations and assess any duties and taxes due on the shipment. The commercial invoice is also used by the importer to determine the landed cost of the shipment and ensure that the payment to the supplier is accurate.

2. What essential details should be included in a commercial invoice?

The commercial invoice should contain the following essential details:

  1. Name and address of the seller
  2. Name and address of the Importer of Record
  3. The country of origin
  4. The appropriate 10-digit Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTUS) number.  
  5. A detailed description of the merchandise.
  6. The quantity of items.
  7. The shipping weight.
  8. The purchase price of merchandise along with values or approximate values of the merchandise. For example, if items were free of charge Customs requires a declared value.
  9. Destination address and/or the port of entry
  10. Currency type must be specified.
  11. Apart from the previously mentioned requirements, it is necessary for all commercial invoices to either be written in English or have a translated version in English attached, as mandated by Customs.

3. What are the consequences of having an incorrect or incomplete commercial invoice?

An incorrect or incomplete commercial invoice can cause significant problems when importing to the US. Most importantly, customs officials may delay the clearance of the shipment, which can result in increased costs and missed deadlines. An incorrect commercial invoice can also result in additional duties and taxes being assessed on the shipment, or even seizure of the goods. To avoid these issues, it's crucial to ensure that all the information on the commercial invoice is accurate and complete.

4. How can you ensure that your commercial invoice meets all the requirements?

To ensure that your commercial invoice meets all the requirements when importing to the U.S. follow the list of requirements ahead of the shipment arriving, by working with your supplier or manufacturer to ensure all details are listed. You may also consider working with an experienced customs broker, such as Strix. Professionals can review your shipment and assist with necessary adjustments. Lastly, it is important to carefully review the invoice for accuracy and completion before submitting it to customs officials.

Understanding commercial invoice requirements when importing to the US is essential to ensure a smooth and efficient customs clearance process and to avoid costly penalties. By including all the necessary details in your commercial invoice and working with experienced professionals, you can ensure that your shipment complies with all relevant regulations.

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