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Commercial invoice vs bill of lading

Updated on :  

08 min read.

Both bills of lading and commercial invoice are used in international trade. They serve as an important document in international trade. The CBIC has mandated commercial invoices and bills of lading to be a part of import/export transactions. This article lists the differences between a commercial invoice and a bill of lading.

ParticularsCommercial invoiceBill of lading
MeaningIt is a formal document issued by the seller to the buyer in an international sale transaction. It serves as proof of international sale.A bill of lading is an official contract between the seller and the shipping company containing details of goods sold, quantity, and the recipient’s address.
RequirementA commercial invoice plays a vital role in determining the correct value of imported goods. It also helps to assess the number of duties and taxes.Bill of lading is accepted as proof of shipment of goods.
ContentsA commercial invoice must include:
Name and address of the buyer

Description of goods


Due date of payment

Freight charges and packing charges

Insurance costs, etc. which are to be recovered from the buyer
A bill of lading should contain the information required by the carrier for schedule pick-up and delivery of goods to the buyer, which includes:
Buyer name and address

Product name and quantity

Gross and net weight of the shipment

Special handling information in case of hazardous goods
Who issues?The seller of goods issues a commercial invoice.It is issued by the shipping company when they control the goods.
PartiesIt is a legal contract between the seller and the buyer of goods.It acts as a binding contract between the shipper and the shipping company.
Ownership of goodsIt does not indicate the ownership of goods or carries the title to goods being sold.It indicates the ownership of goods.
PurposeIt is used to detail the financial transaction for the sale of goods. It should be prepared accurately as any misinformation may lead to underpayment of duties and taxes.It serves more of a logistical purpose and emphasises the physical description of goods. It is beneficial in disputes with buyers, shipping companies or customs departments.
Time limitIt must be prepared on or before the dispatch date of goods.It is prepared when loading the goods onto the vessel for international transit.