ArticlesThe Complete Guide to Proforma Invoices


The Complete Guide to Proforma Invoices

Embark on a comprehensive exploration of proforma invoices, an indispensable tool in the realm of exports, trade, and supply chain management. Our guide covers everything from the fundamental principles of proforma invoicing to its pivotal role in facilitating international transactions. Learn how proforma invoices serve as vital communication tools between buyers and sellers, shaping the trajectory of global commerce.

By India Index

6 min read

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to proforma invoices—a crucial component of managing finances in the business world. In the realm of commerce, countless transactions occur daily, and understanding the intricacies of invoicing is paramount. 

Among these invoices lies the proforma invoice, a preliminary bill exchanged between seller and buyer prior to shipment. In this article, we delve deep into the workings of proforma invoices, addressing common queries surrounding their functionality, legality, and specifications. 

Join us as we navigate through the nuances of proforma invoicing, empowering you to streamline your business operations with confidence and clarity.

What does a Proforma mean?

Before you understand a proforma invoice, you should know the meaning of the word proforma. Proforma, in simple words, means ‘as a matter of form’ or ‘for the sake of form.’ In the financial world, proforma depicts that financial results are obtained based on past performance.

Besides invoices, there can be three more types of proforma in accounting. These are as follows:

  • Proforma cash flow statements
  • Proforma balance sheets
  • Proforma income statements

Proforma Invoices Explained

Before the sales are made, the seller and the buyer meet and discuss the requirements. In this process, they negotiate a mutually agreed upon price and terms. A proforma invoice is, therefore, a preliminary invoice that a seller shares with the buyer before the sale.

Everything is included in this invoice, such as the seller's deliverable. It includes goods or services, pricing, delivery date, and shipping information. After this preliminary or proforma invoice, the buyer agrees for the deal to take place. After this, the seller is expected to share the sales invoice and proceed with the shipment of the products.

An important point to remember is that a proforma invoice does not include the final price that the buyer has to pay. It only represents a rough idea of the total amount if the deal is accepted and agreed upon. On the other hand, a seller also understands how much they must charge to earn a profit from this transaction.

Thus, it is often used when sellers deal with new customers without experience working with them. It can benefit people looking for bulk orders by helping them understand what and how the transaction will go through. A proforma invoice is a great tool to clear up and remove any uncertainties between seller and buyer before the start of the deal.

What is Included in a Proforma Invoice

Often, people are unaware of what to include in a proforma invoice. Since this is not an actual invoice and, more importantly, cannot be used for accounting purposes, the first thing to mention is that it is ‘not a commercial invoice.’ 

Some other things that can be included in a proforma invoice are:

  1. Tax details
  2. Invoice issue date
  3. Invoice due date
  4. Signature of the authorized person
  5. Seller’s name
  6. Seller’s address
  7. Seller’s phone number
  8. Seller’s terms and conditions
  9. Buyer’s name
  10. Buyer’s address
  11. Buyer’s phone number
  12. Product or service details
  13. Product or service’s unit cost
  14. Seller’s bank account details

Using Proforma Invoice for Clearance at Customs

What happens when you have a customs clearance? Can you use a proforma invoice and get your goods cleared? The answer to this depends on the situation. For instance, in some cases, the proforma invoice can be used to get the goods cleared at customs. It is because this document is very similar to that of a commercial invoice.

According to the International Trade Administration, you can use a proforma invoice for the following purposes:

  • When applying for an import permit or license.
  • When opening a letter of credit for goods and services.
  • To transfer hard currency for goods and services.
  • When applying for a contract in case of a pre-shipment inspection. However, it can be done for specific goods and services, which must be booked in advance.

Important Things to Remember for Proforma Invoice

Here are some things that must be remembered when dealing with proforma invoices:

  • Your proforma invoice will have all the information you usually find in a normal invoice. These can be as follows:
    • Item description
    • Applicable surcharges
    • Unit price
    • Discount
    • Total amount
    • Taxes
    • Payment terms
    • Shipping fees
  • However, one must remember that no invoice number will be mentioned since it is not an invoice.
  • It is only prepared to provide an estimated amount to the buyer before selling the product or service.
  • In international trade, this proforma invoice can be used as a preliminary bill for the sale for customs purposes.
  • Businesses can also use this invoice for forecasting and budgeting purposes. It is because it can estimate the cost of goods and services.
  • A proforma invoice is also a good tool for eliminating any misunderstanding between the seller and the buyer regarding the sale and service of a product or service.

Proforma Invoice and How it is Legally Binding

A sales invoice and a proforma invoice share a lot of information. However, one must remember that a proforma invoice is not legally binding. This is because the terms and conditions of the sale can be changed. Therefore, one should consider a proforma invoice as a sales quote for the sales or services intended for the future.

Hence, the total amount due per the proforma invoice should be kept from the accounting books. Moreover, the same should not be used for accounts receivable or to reclaim VAT (Value-added Tax)

Difference Between a Proforma Invoice and a Standard Invoice

There is a difference between a proforma and a standard invoice. A proforma invoice is shared with the buyer as a preliminary bill before the sale is finalized. Although the format is similar to a formal invoice, it is not a typical invoice.

On the other hand, a standard invoice is a document the seller shares with the buyer after every agreement is made and the payment date is finalized. It is a legal document that states everything related to a product or service and who owns what.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, the proforma invoice is an essential instrument in business since it bridges formal transactions and opens lines of communication between buyers and sellers. Despite not being legally enforceable, the document is necessary because it gives firms a thorough overview of upcoming financial obligations, enabling them to plan and organize more successfully. 

The proforma invoice helps build a strong basis for profitable company transactions, whether it is employed in domestic or international trade. Understanding the importance of this early invoice is critical for businesses looking to operate efficiently, responsibly, and cooperatively in the complex world of contemporary trade as markets continue to change and become more globalized. 

Accepting the subtleties of the proforma invoice promotes cooperation and trust in the fast-paced world of business transactions and ensures adherence to industry best practices. 

To learn how many other aspects of international trade can affect a business, visit the India Index website. You can also subscribe to their newsletter and continue to find more interesting and educational blogs.

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