Loralie SA

All about Proforma Invoices



The pro-forma invoice is the most frequently used invoicing method other than the commercial invoice. But when can one emit one and what are the contextual and formal conditions that must be satisfied?

What type of commodity value should be indicated? And what are the risks and drawbacks in relation to the “pro-forma” description?

There are many types of invoices and keeping an overview in this area is not always easy. The invoices most frequently used in connection with deliveries crossing the border (exports and imports) are as follows:

Pro-forma invoice

Commercial invoice

Customs invoice

Export invoice

Shipping invoice

Supplier invoice


Definition of the pro-forma invoice

A pro-forma invoice is a document that is used for cross-border deliveries in freight traffic.

in the event of free deliveries. It serves as the basis for the customs announcement. The pro format invoice is often issued for prepayment of goods and services.

It mainly provides information to the recipient and it serves as the basis for customs declaration. Proforma invoices are often issued in connection with payments made in advance (cash advance) if there is not yet a commercial invoice issued.

In this case, the pro-forma invoice also serves as the basis for payment.



The pro-forma is not accepted by certain specific countries. The goods then remain blocked in customs and cannot be imported into the country in question.

Customs authorities still question the underlying reason for the pro-forma invoice, in particular when there is no clear reason for the issuance of the pro-forma invoice.

We therefore recommend that you write the invoice as either a Shipping Invoice or a Transport Invoice. If you issue a pro-forma invoice, it must contain the same correct details as a “normal” commercial invoice.

Even if your customer does not pay anything for the goods, it is still necessary to indicate a value of the goods and other minor indications in terms of foreign trade data when the delivery crosses the border to carry out customs clearance (description of the goods, quantity, weight, origin of the product, etc. The customs notification will be carried out based on these indications which appear in the pro-forma invoice.

A pro-forma invoice can be used in the following situations:

Sending samples free of charge

Sending gifts


Free delivery of spare parts (warranty, etc.)

Goods for free repair (e.g. warranty)

Temporary use of goods

When the goods have been prepaid (in this case, a pro-forma invoice will be drawn up for bookkeeping and then the corresponding commercial invoice will be issued after sending the goods)



How to correctly create an invoice in terms of content?

For customs clearance to be carried out correctly, you will find below minimum indications that must be respected in an invoice that will cross a border:

  • Name and address of the sender
  • Name and address of the recipient of the invoice
  • Name and address of the recipient of the goods
  • Name of the contact at the expeditor of the goods
  • EORI number and IDE number of the recipient of the invoice
  • Place and date of issue of the invoice
  • Invoice Number
  • Customer references (order number, contract number, etc.)
  • Type of shipment (truck, ocean freight, etc.)
  • Bank details and VAT number of the sender
  • Payment Terms
  • Unique item Number
  • Customs tariff number (HS code) per item
  • Expressive description of the goods by item
  • Value of the goods by position with indication of the individual price
  • Billing currency
  • Country of origin by item
  • Preferential status by article
  • Number of packages, volume, net, and gross weight if a list of packages is produced
  • Information on international export controls for each item (EKN, ECCN export control number, AL number for Dual-Use goods)
  • incoterms® with indication of location and version
  • Proof of preference (declaration of origin in the invoice )



In addition, for the supplier’s invoice:

  • Your order number or reference
  • Bank details and IDE number of the sender

Optional for the supplier’s invoice, however useful for the customs declarant / customs clearance provider:

  • Your IDE number (company identification number)
  • Your PCD accountant (central customs officer)


Source : Weka VAT newsletter March 2021