It's more than just a contract of sale. A commercial invoice should contain enough information for a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to determine if the goods being imported are admissible and, if so, that they are classified correctly. While there is no specific format for an invoice, part 141.86 of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations sets forth that each invoice must include, in part, the the following information:

  1. The port of entry to which the merchandise is destined.

  2. The time when, the place where, and the person by whom and the person to whom the merchandise is sold or agreed to be sold.

  3. A detailed description of the merchandise, including the name by which each item is known, the grade or quality, and the marks, numbers, and symbols under which sold by the seller or manufacturer to the trade in the country of exportation, together with the marks and numbers of the packages in which the merchandise is packed.

  4. The quantities in the weights and measures of the country or place from which the merchandise is shipped, or in the weights and measures of the United States.

  5. The purchase price of each item in the currency of the purchase, if the merchandise is shipped in pursuance of a purchase or an agreement to purchase.

  6. If the merchandise is shipped otherwise than in pursuance of a purchase or an agreement to purchase, the value for each item, in the currency in which the transactions are usually made, or, in the absence of such value, the price in such currency that the manufacturer, seller, shipper, or owner would have received, or was willing to receive, for such merchandise if sold in the ordinary course of trade and in the usual wholesale quantities in the country of exportation.

  7. All charges upon the merchandise itemized by name and amount, including freight, insurance, commission, cases, containers, coverings, and cost of packing; and if not included above, all charges, costs, and expenses incurred in bringing the merchandise from alongside the carrier at the port of exportation in the country of exportation and placing it alongside the carrier at the first United States port of entry. The cost of packing, cases, containers, and inland freight to the port of exportation need not be itemized by amount if included in the invoice price, and so identified.

  8. All rebates, drawbacks, and bounties, separately itemized, allowed upon the exportation of the merchandise.

  9. The country of origin of the merchandise.

  10. All goods or services furnished for the production of the merchandise (e.g., assists such as dies, molds, tools, engineering work) not included in the invoice price. However, goods or services furnished in the United States are excluded. Annual reports for goods and services, when approved by the Center director, will be accepted as proof that the goods or services were provided.

That's a pretty serious list, but that's not all. The same statute also establishes the following requirements:

  1. Invoice to be in English. The invoice and all attachments must be in the English language, or must have attached thereto an accurate English translation containing adequate information for examination of the merchandise and determination of duties.

  2. Packing list. Each invoice must state in adequate detail what merchandise is contained in each individual package.

  3. Weights and measures. If the invoice or entry does not disclose the weight, gage, or measure of the merchandise which is necessary to ascertain duties, the consignee must pay the expense of weighing, gaging, or measuring prior to the release of the merchandise from CBP custody.

  4. Discounts. Each invoice must set forth in detail, for each class or kind of merchandise, every discount from list or other base price which has been or may be allowed in fixing each purchase price or value.

  5. Numbering of invoices and pages. Each invoice with its attachments must be numbered consecutively by the importer on the bottom of the face of each page, beginning with No. 1. Likewise, if the invoice or invoices filed with one entry consist of more than two pages, each page must be numbered consecutively by the importer on the bottom of the face of each page, with the page numbering beginning with No. 1 for the first page of the first invoice and continuing in a single series of numbers through all the invoices and attachments included in one entry.

  6. Name of responsible individual. Each invoice of imported merchandise must identify by name a responsible employee of the exporter, who has knowledge, or who can readily obtain knowledge, of the transaction.

Any information required on an invoice may be provided either on the invoice or on an attachment thereto.

A well-constructed invoice can expedite a manifest hold or exam. Conversely, an invoice that lacks the required information is likely to prolong an exam and might result in additional inquiries.

So how does your invoice stack up? If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us at

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