Shipping Invoice

Shipping is a complex business, and it’s essential that every shipment has all the necessary documents to reach its destination without any issues. The shipping invoice is crucial, as it offers all the required information to concerned parties.

Despite being such a comprehensive and vital document, it can be created effortlessly if you use a good template, as we will show below.

What Is a Shipping Invoice?

A shipping invoice or a bill of lading is an accounting tool used to record all the relevant specifications on the shipped goods. It lists the description of the goods, with details like weight, quantity, or volume, as well as the cost and the destination.

The shipper invoice is more than a simple description of the merchandise; it’s a binding contract between two parties, the shipper and the carrier, and it can stand out in court, if necessary.

Apart from being written proof that it’s a legal transport, the ship invoice also serves the purpose of a shipping receipt when the consignee receives the goods at the final destination. So, it’s a mandatory addition to the shipment from the starting point until it’s signed for at the destination.

Shipping Invoice vs. Commercial Invoice

Shipping invoices and commercial invoices are very similar documents, in the sense that they are both shipping receipts used for internationally transported goods. But they don’t have precisely the same functions.

We have already covered the question ‘what is a shipping invoice?’; it’s an official and legal document that needs to accompany the goods during the transport, all the way to the destination, where it becomes the consignee’s receipt.

On the other hand, the commercial invoice has two primary functions. It is the seller’s way of billing the buyer for the goods, and, at the same time, it’s essential for taking the package through customs.

The description and value of the goods are mentioned in both documents but are important for different reasons. With shipping invoices, the value of the merchandise, combined with other aspects like the distance and transfer points, are used to determine freight charges.

The value in the commercial invoice is necessary for the customs employees to calculate duties and taxes. But in both cases, it’s about stating the real value of the goods.

There is one more difference between the two documents that are worth mentioning. Dissimilar to the shipping invoice (or bill of lading), a commercial invoice doesn’t include any reference to the ownership of the goods, and it doesn’t transfer the title of the merchandise.

The shipper invoice does carry the title, as the consignee uses this document to claim ownership and confirm the delivery.

What Are the Key Elements in a Shipping Invoice?

Since it’s a legally binding document, the shipper invoice, or bill of lading, has certain mandatory sections. To verify if your document has all the necessary elements, here is what all shipping receipts must include:

  • The shipper’s name and contact information
  • The receiver’s name and contact information
  • Relevant reference numbers, like the purchase order number
  • A section for special instructions, in case certain notes to the carrier are essential
  • The pick-up date – useful for tracking the shipment and sometimes for invoice reconciliation
  • A detailed description of the goods
  • What type of packaging is used?
  • The freight class
  • Special designations, it necessary (for instance, if hazardous materials are involved)

It is essential to fill in every section with maximum accuracy and attention because these are all crucial elements. From the consignee’s complete contact details to the quantity of the goods or the way they are packed, everything must be noted carefully.

The shipping invoice is essential from the moment the goods are handed to the carrier until the consignee signs for them, and even later, in case the document is presented in court to settle a dispute.


Being such a valuable document, the shipping invoice needs to look professional and be extremely efficient. In shipping, misunderstandings and mistakes cost money and can lead to more severe issues.

So, try creating your shipping invoices with a template. You will find an excellent one on the invoicing software WeInvoice, along with other user-friendly and efficient templates and invoice generators.