How do I write a Commercial Invoice?

For those of you that are daunted by shipping, do not despair, it's less complicated than it seems.

What is a Commercial Invoice?

When shipping internationally with a courier/postal service you will be required to fill out a declaration for customs in the form of either a Commercial or a Pro-Forma invoice.

This document is designed to explain to customs officials what the contents of the package are and if an additional duty or tax needs to be levied. It is very important that these documents are 100% accurate.

From 1 January 2021, our EU-based artists will need to include a commercial invoice in order to ship to the UK and vice versa. 

For shipments within the EU (i.e. Spain to France), and within the same country (i.e. UK-UK), a commercial invoice is not needed, however, for all other international shipments please do ship with a commercial invoice. 

What information do I have to include?

The couriers, like FedEx or DHL, will often have a template for you to follow, but there is some key information you have to include if you are preparing your own invoice. Here is a list of critical information;

  • Sender's address & contact number
  • Recipient's address & contact number
  • The package's tracking number & carrier
  • A full description of the contents, including;
    • Basic description of artwork, quantity, materials, date, value, weight etc.
    • Harmonised code
    • Reason for export/intended use
    • Country of manufacture + statement of origin
  • A signed & dated declaration that everything on the invoice is true

Selling on Artfinder is a commercial venture, and therefore you should not be sending any packages as a gift - these should be shipped appropriately as commercial goods. For international shipments, you will need to include a commercial invoice with the appropriate harmonised code/tariff. Failure to ship correctly can lead to extra charges for customers, issues in transit, and parcels being destroyed or returned to sender.

What is a harmonised/commodity code?

A commodity/harmonised code is a number allocated to goods to classify international imports. Every item will fall under a commodity code – and this commodity code dictates your duty rating, as well as alerts you to any import or export restrictions.

You need to use commodity codes to classify your goods when you're importing and exporting them so our artists will need to know them (and the Artfinder team as well for arranging return shipments). You include a commodity code on your commercial invoice (or import or export declarations).

Here are the main commodity/harmonised codes for art (executed entirely by hand, excluding antiques of an age exceeding 100 years  - these have separate commodity codes) developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO):

  • 9701.9100 - Paintings, drawings and pastels (executed entirely by hand, excluding antiques of an age exceeding 100 years)
  • 9701.9900 - Collages 
  • 9703.9000 - Sculptures 
  • 9702.9000 - Original engravings, prints and lithographs
  • 4911.9900 - Printed pictures and photographs

Please note that we provide the above as examples of current harmonised codes for each category, however, we always encourage you to check these yourself as they may periodically change.

Here is an example of a commercial invoice

Now, bear in mind, certain countries (such as the USA and Canada) will have their own export criteria, such as AES/ITN/EEI, which will need specific research in order to make the appropriate declaration.

For imports into the EU and UK, you will need to have an EORI number which will need to be included on the commercial invoice. 

Each courier will also have help articles to guide you in filling out these forms, you can find FedEx's guide here and DHL's guide here.

If you ship with DHL, they will create a commercial invoice for you as part of the shipment booking process. However, if they don't, you will be able to use this tool.

Changes to commercial invoices due to Brexit

The UK and EU trade deal that was announced on Christmas Eve 2021 which defines regulations of the UK and EU trade from the end of the transition period - 1 Jan 2021.

From 1 January 2021  Customs Declarations are required between Great Britain and the European Union, therefore Commercial or Pro-Forma Invoices are needed.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement allows for a zero tariff to be applied to goods entering the EU from the UK (and vice versa), only when they meet the rules of origin requirements, which needs to be clearly stated on the Commercial or Pro-Forma Invoice. An example of a Commercial Invoice can be viewed here.

DHL for instance advises to use the following text for the origin statement on the Commercial or Pro-forma invoice: The exporter of the products covered by this document (Exporter Reference No. (REX or GB EORI number)) declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of ....... preferential origin. (Place and date)* (Name of the exporter).

Orders under the £135 value that will be imported into the UK as of 1st January 2021 and orders under €150 imported to the EU after the 1 July 2021 need to be accompanied by a sales VAT invoice attached to the parcel in addition to a commercial invoice. It's important that the artwork value on the commercial invoice should be always the same as on the VAT invoice (in the same currency wherever possible) - net of VAT after any discounts, so exactly as it is showing on the sales VAT invoice you will receive under the column 'Amount GBP/EUR'. For more information, click here

As ever, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our dedicated support team at

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