Pro forma and commercial invoices are both used when companies sell and ship goods internationally. They are similar documents containing much of the same information, yet they serve different purposes.
Pro Forma Invoice
A pro forma invoice is more or less considered a sales quote. It is issued by a seller to a buyer when the buyer is considering purchasing goods from the seller. It contains useful information about the sale including a description of the goods, the cost, any fees that apply and the terms of the sale.
A commercial invoice is the final bill after the goods are shipped. It is the binding agreement and terms of the sale. The information on the commercial invoice may vary from that of the pro forma invoice. Any changes between these two invoices are made by agreement between the buyer and the seller.
A pro forma invoice is used in negotiations and is delivered to a potential buyer before the order is confirmed. The buyer looks it over and either accepts it, rejects it or contacts the seller to negotiate. Once everything is agreed upon, the order is shipped with the commercial invoice is then sent. The seller is responsible for paying the amount due on this invoice.