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How to write a shipping invoice (& template)

GoCardless
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Last editedMay 20222 min read

If you’re transporting goods within the mainland UK, your invoice format depends on whether you’re registered for VAT. If you are, you need to follow HMRC rules. If not, you can follow/adjust a simple template. If you’re transporting goods outside mainland UK, you need to know how to write a shipping invoice – our guide can help.

Shipping invoices vs regular invoices

Regular invoices are mainly for buyers. They set out what has been sent by whom and how much needs to be paid in what way and by when. Regular invoices can also provide useful records for the seller and, potentially, HMRC.

Shipping invoices must cover the above, and also provide the information needed for customs, law enforcement and possibly logistics companies as well. Customs officers need to be able to tell, at a glance, which duties and/or taxes they should apply. They, law enforcement and logistics companies all need to be sure that your package is fully legal and safe.

Shipping invoices and Brexit

Prior to Brexit, UK-based companies shipping to the EU only had to provide regular invoices with their deliveries. Now, however, any UK-based company needs to provide a full shipping invoice for all deliveries to Europe and Northern Ireland.

If you’re shipping to the EU, you will need to put a standard EORI number on your shipping invoice. If you’re shipping to Northern Ireland, you will need a separate XI EORI number. You can only get this once you’re received your standard EORI number. You apply for both numbers online and should allow at least a week to receive each.

For completeness, depending on your destination and shipment, you may also need to include a Certificate of Origin, a CP71 dispatch note and CN22 or CN23 customs declarations. These are separate from your shipping invoice. Failing to include them can lead to delays and/or rejected shipments.

Shipping invoice format

Regardless of the end destination, all shipping invoices should be written in English. If you’re shipping to the EU, the value of the goods should be stated in Euros. There is no standardised format for shipping invoices, but there are standardised data items that need to be included. A shipping invoice has to provide full details of what is in the package, who sent it, who will receive it and who is responsible for it.

The details of the cargo must be as complete and accurate as possible. In addition to stating the product description, you must also provide the HS (Harmonised System) code or commodity code. Try to include details of what the product is made of and what its purpose is. Remember that something which seems obvious to you may not seem obvious to a customs agent.

You also need to state what Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) you are using. Incoterms set out who is responsible for the consignment at what stage in the process. From a customs perspective, the key point is that the Incoterms set out who is responsible for duties and taxes.

You may need to get your shipping invoice certified by a Chamber of Commerce. Your local branch should be able to tell you if this is a requirement for any given destination.

Shipping invoices and payment

A shipping invoice is a request for payment. While many payment methods work internationally, even globally, most of them levy high charges for doing so and/or use unfavourable exchange rates. GoCardless, by contrast, uses the real exchange rates set by Wise and has very attractive international rates.

What’s more, using direct debit, puts you in control of the payment. All your customer has to do is create an authorisation for you. You then set up the appropriate charge and charge date. GoCardless will charge the customer without any further action from them (or you). This can vastly speed up payments and also cut down on tedious administration.

We can help

GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments. GoCardless also enables businesses to collect invoice payments directly from their customers’ bank account, saving them time and money. Businesses can get paid up to twice as fast by accepting GoCardless payments on their online invoices.

Over 70,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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