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Proforma invoice

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Guide: Understanding and Writing a Proforma Invoice

Navigating the nuances of invoice preparation is a pivotal skill for any business owner or professional handling finance. One such type of financial document that you may encounter is the proforma invoice. Whether you're navigating international trade, dealing with freelancing clients, or just starting your accounting education, understanding and creating a proforma invoice is an essential step in smooth business transactions.

The Role of a Proforma Invoice

A proforma invoice is not a demand for payment as a standard invoice is. Instead, it serves several crucial purposes, often serving as a kind of quotation that’s legally binding. It outlines a seller’s intent to deliver goods or services to a buyer for a specified price, agreed upon conditions, and at a given time. Here's a detailed look at each vital function:


Think of a proforma invoice as a 'pre-invoice.' It provides a customer with an estimated cost of the transaction, prior to the actual delivery of goods or services.

Legal Declaration

The numbers and specifics outlined in a proforma invoice are seen as a legal commitment. This commitment is not final or for payment, but it sets the parameters of the sale, which the buyer can rely upon before the sale is made.

Customs Declaration

If your business involves international trade, then a proforma invoice can also act as a customs declaration. They are considered binding for customs purposes on the content and value of goods and can indicate the terms of a shipment.

Understanding all of these aspects will guide you in crafting an informed and accurate proforma invoice.

Components of a Proforma Invoice

A well-constructed proforma invoice contains several key components, each bearing equal weight in delineating the details of the transaction. These components are as follows:

Itemized List

A thorough list of products or services involved in the transaction, indicating quantities and pricing for individual units.


This section must detail the currency used and the final agreed-upon price for the transaction.

Terms and Conditions

This section must detail any additional terms, such as payment in advance, warranty information, or return policies.

Understanding these components will help ensure that all pertinent information is conveyed and understood by both parties.

Steps to Create a Proforma Invoice

Crafting a proforma invoice is not as complex as it may seem. It requires diligent attention to detail and a clear expression of the terms and conditions involved in the transaction. Here are the detailed steps you need to follow to create a proforma invoice:

Gather Necessary Information

Before you begin drafting the proforma invoice, collect all the necessary information. This includes a detailed list of products or services, the agreed upon price, and any terms and conditions that apply.

Use a Template or Create a Layout

Using established templates from reputable sources or creating a layout suited to your business needs and aesthetics can streamline the process.

Include Company Details, Recipient Information, and Item Descriptions

Ensure that your proforma invoice includes your company name, address, and contact information, the recipient's details, and clear descriptions of the items, including their quantity, unit price, and total cost.

Specify Payment Terms and Delivery Details

Clearly stipulate the agreed-upon payment terms, such as advance payment, on receipt, or installment plan, and provide details regarding delivery, including mode of transport and estimated time.

Review and Finalize the Invoice

Double-check all the details and ensure that the value and descriptions are in line with your agreement. Finalize the proforma invoice for distribution.

Importance of Accuracy and Compliance

Your proforma invoice is, in some aspects, a legal document. Therefore, it must be accurate and must comply with any relevant regulations. These may vary depending on the nature of your business and the local trade laws that apply. It's critical to double-check values, descriptions, and totals to ensure they are consistent with your agreements and that they comply with local regulations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are several pitfalls that those new to drafting proforma invoices often encounter. Here are the most important ones to be aware of:

Incorrect Pricing

Ensure that your pricing is accurate and reflective of the agreed-upon terms. This includes any discounts or special offers that may have been part of the negotiation.

Missing Details

Leaving out critical information, such as item descriptions or payment terms, can lead to confusion and potential disputes. Be comprehensive in your invoice content.

Unclear Terms

The clarity of your invoicing terms will directly affect the transaction's fluidity. Terms should be defined in a straightforward manner to avoid points of contention later on.

By being conscious of and avoiding these common mistakes, you'll ensure your proforma invoice is clear and reliable.


In the complex web of business transactions, the proforma invoice is a powerful tool. It acts as a bridge between quotation and payment, while also serving as a pillar of the administrative aspects of trade. By diligently understanding its role and following the guidelines to create one, you're not only ensuring smoother transactions but also establishing professional and compliant practices that are critical to your business's success. Practice crafting proforma invoices with care, and soon enough, it will become as routine as any other business process.

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The information provided in this article does not constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. Please check with an attorney or financial advisor to obtain advice with respect to the content of this article.

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