Pro forma invoice from A to Z – Importance for customs and foreign trade

Pro forma invoice customs


What is a pro forma invoice?

The pro forma invoice is a document that differs from the conventional invoice primarily in that it does not request the buyer to pay. It is therefore not recorded for accounting purposes.
Goods are generally subject to declaration when shipped to or from countries outside the EU in accordance with customs regulations. If an invoice is issued pro forma (Latin for the sake of form), then this serves the purpose of fulfilling the declaration obligation in the movement of goods with third countries even if no payment is due.
Even if goods are not paid for, e.g. in the case of sample consignments, a value of goods must be declared to the customs authorities.

When do you need a pro forma invoice?

Pro forma invoices are often used:

  • when sending sample shipments, gifts and donations
  • if the goods have already been paid for in advance
  • for temporary use of goods abroad
  • for warranty processing, replacement deliveries and exchange of goods
  • as an offer – esp. if goods are included in the shipment

What must a pro forma invoice look like?

In principle, the same information must be provided as on a conventional commercial invoice. It must be clearly marked “pro forma invoice”.
Usually, a pro forma invoice contains the following additional information:

  • Consignor: Name and address
  • Recipient: name and address (telephone, fax, contact person)
  • Delivery address, if different
  • Terms of delivery
  • Invoice number, place, date
  • VAT identification number, EORI number
  • Customs tariff numbers
  • Gross and net weight, country of origin, package number
  • Signature, stamp

Proformarechnung zoll

Kostenlose Proformarechnung Muster & Vorlagen

Download Proforma Invoice Template for Word (2010 .docx or later)
Only available in German!
Download Pro Forma Invoice Template for Word (97-2003 .doc)
Only available in German!
Download proforma invoice sample in PDF format
Only available in German!

When issuing or receiving a pro forma invoice, it is important that the stated amount necessarily corresponds to the actual value of the goods when this is used for customs clearance.

Especially in the case of sample shipments, it is important to ensure that a quantity of 5 pieces and a value of goods of 50€ is not exceeded.

In practice, a lower value of goods is often declared in order to reduce or avoid customs duties and import VAT. Many are not aware that the consignee, as the customs officer, is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the information and not the invoice issuer.

A customs clearance based on an incorrect value of goods in the proforma invoice can be punished as tax evasion if the value of goods is not subsequently corrected in an adjustment. In the case of companies, the managing director is directly liable in this case.

Note on the preparation of pro forma invoices for foreign trade

    • Deliveries to foreign countries are exempt from sales tax. Therefore, corresponding invoices are to be issued net.
    • Deliveries within the EC are subject to purchase tax.

If goods are supplied to persons liable to purchase tax (usually entrepreneurs) in other EC member states, the VAT identification number (VAT ID number) of the recipient and the supplier should appear on all invoices, as well as the reference to a tax-free intra-Community supply. This applies in the same way to German persons / companies subject to VAT who receive deliveries from other EC member states.

Free pro forma invoice templates and samples:

as Word and PDF versions

Proformarechnung Invoice

  • We have a free template (sample) for you to create your proforma invoice.

More information:

For more information on the subject, please contact your customs office or visit

Stefan Kluge