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Basic to the entire U.S. Customs clearance system is the invoice for the articles imported, issued by the foreign seller. There are specific requirements as to the content of an invoice, but these are not commonly known. An invoice that does not reflect basic information required by Customs can delay release of the shipment, cause errors in the assessment of duty and in some cases result in the assessment of liquidated damages and/or penalties. An invoice in one form or another is required for every commercial shipment, whether the imported article is sold on consignment or loan, is a gift, sample, or return of the importer's own product.

Basic invoice requirements are:

Names and complete addresses for both seller and importer. If seller is not the manufacturer or producer, the name and address of the actual manufacturer or producer must be clearly indicated and prefaced with a statement such as "Manufactured by ".

Terms of the sale and currency used in current INCOTERMS, e.g. CIF, C&F, EXW, FOB, DDP etc. All charges, payments, selling or buying commissions included in the value of the invoice such as Ocean Freight, Marine Insurance, Packing, Inland Freight, rebates, discounts or other financial assists affecting invoice value must be itemized separately on the invoice.

Date invoice was issued.

Country of Origin of each article (which may differ from the country from which the merchandise was shipped).

A clear description of the articles shipped. U.S. Customs requires that an invoice be prepared and translated, if necessary, into English. Trade names of articles that do not reflect to the layman exactly what the articles are should not be used unless the invoice contains additional explanations as to the exact nature of the articles. The materials of which articles are made should be indicated on the invoice. There are numerous tariff classifications in the Customs Tariff (HTSUS) that differentiate an article by its material makeup. As an example, tableware can be made of glass, earthenware, porcelain, pewter, etc. The description of such tableware on an invoice should also include the material makeup of the article. This is especially important given that the duty rates on tableware are based substantially on the material makeup and can vary widely. If part numbers are the only description provided, a supplemental description will have to be added to these part numbers.

Carton count, Gross and Net Weights

Quantity, unit value and extension (total) for each line item

Frequent Errors on Invoices
  1. Not indicating the Country of Origin
  2. Not declaring the name of the currency used.
  3. Freight and Marine Insurance not itemized, or itemized but INCOTERMS Terms of Sale missing.
  4. Assists not declared or included in purchase price.
  5. Commissions, if part of transaction, not separately stated.
  6. Not showing true price of articles - price must be the price actually paid or payable to the seller.
  7. Items in shipment but not listed on invoice and packing list.
  8. Items on invoice with no value shown
  9. .
  10. Vague or incomplete descriptions of merchandise.

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