How to make a proforma invoice ?

Your advices to make the best proforma invoice for your shipments

How to make a proforma invoice?

By following the instructions in this article, you will know what a proforma invoice is for, what information you should put on it and when you should attach a proforma invoice to your shipment. Having a correctly completed proforma invoice will limit customs blockages and also avoid possible customs fees. And finally, what is the difference between a proforma invoice and a commercial invoice.

Pro forma invoice vs. commercial invoice,
but what is a pro forma invoice?

Unlike the commercial invoice, the proforma invoice has no commercial value and is not subject to payment. It will not be entered in your accounting.

When selling goods for export, you will issue a commercial invoice. It will contain the same information as the pro forma invoice, however it must be paid by the recipient and will be recorded in your accounting.

On the other hand, if you return merchandise to your supplier, or send a sample that you do not wish to invoice, you will need to attach a pro forma invoice.

!!! If you attach a commercial invoice to your shipment, you should not attach a proforma invoice!!!!

The purpose of the proforma invoice

  • When shipping internationally, customs need to know the description of the goods (the content of your shipment), the quantity, weight, origin of the product, price, address of the sender as well as the address of the recipient.
  • It is precisely on the proforma invoice that customs services will find all this information. And it is on the basis of this information that the customs services will establish the customs fees of your shipment.
  • Each time a good has to pass through customs, a value must be given to that good so that customs can apply the taxes.
  • Important : As with the commercial invoice, the proforma invoice must be written in the language of the destination country or in English.

What should be the content of a pro forma invoice?

With the exception of certain information such as bank details or payment terms, the content of the proforma invoice will be very similar to that of the commercial invoice.

Information to be included on the pro forma invoice:

  •  The mention “Pro forma invoice” with a pro forma invoice number.
  •  The date of issue.
  •  Name, address and contact details of the sender.
  •  Name, address, contact details and VAT number (or EORI in the European Union) of the recipient.
  •  Incoterms chosen for the shipment,( offers DAP or DDP).
  •  Reason for sending: return of merchandise, personal effects, gifts, sales, samples.
  •  Detailed description of the contents of your shipment (if you know the HS code, specify it).
  •  Quantity, weight, unit price and total price. When exporting, the price is always duty free (without VAT).
  •  Total value of the shipment.
  •  The currency used.
  •  The country of origin of the goods. This is the country of manufactur, it may be different from the country of shipment. *
  •  Signature.

*Normally you must attach a certificate of origin issued by your Chamber of Commerce. However, Switzerland has concluded international agreements that simplify the declaration of origin by simply indicating at the bottom of the invoice the origin of your product with the following standard sentence:

“The exporter of the products covered by this document declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of “Country of Origin”  preferential origin”.

The rules are different for each country, but in 90% of cases, this indication is sufficient when the value of your shipment is less than 6,000 Euros (at the current rate for Swiss francs). If you want to know more about the declaration of the origin, you can consult our dedicated section on this subject. Origin of the products.

I don’t have a pro forma invoice…

Feel free to download our proforma invoice template in word format. (coming soon)

Do I have to attach a pro forma invoice when I send a gift or personal effects?

Unfortunately yes, even if you send yourself used personal belongings or a gift to your nephew in the United States or France, you will still need to attach a pro forma invoice to your shipment. Whether for a gift or personal effects, the recipient will have to pay customs duties. These will mainly consist of the VAT at the rate of destination country.

As it is always unpleasant for the recipient of a gift to also receive an invoice from customs, you have the option to pay the customs costs of the destination country yourself. To do this, you must make a request to so that we can give you the opportunity to make a reservation at your own expense. These will be re-invoiced to you, once the carrier has sent the amount of the duty to us.

Important : When you decide to pay yourselft the customs costs, you will not be able to get them refunded in your VAT declaration.

When moving, it is possible to avoid some of the customs fees by providing some information to the customs of the destination country. Very often, they ask you to prove your final move. These documents depend of the country of relocation. We therefore recommend that you check directly with the customs service of the destination country.

!!! If you attach a commercial invoice to your shipment, you should not attach a proforma invoice!!!!