What Is a Pro Forma Invoice? A Comprehensive Guide

Wajiha Danish | July 26 2023

In business transactions, invoices are vital in ensuring smooth financial processes. Among various types of invoices, the proforma invoice is a crucial document with significant value. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a business owner, or a professional working in finance, understanding the ins and outs of a proforma invoice can prove invaluable.  

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In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the fundamental aspects of a proforma invoice, shedding light on its purpose, the essential information it contains, and how it differs from other types of invoices. We’ll also provide a practical example to help illustrate its application in real-world scenarios.  

What is a Proforma Invoice?  

A pro forma invoice is a preliminary bill or document that a seller issues to a buyer before goods or services are sold. It serves as a quotation or an estimate of the price the buyer will need to pay if they proceed with the purchase.  

Pro forma invoices are commonly used in international trade or for complex transactions where the buyer may require detailed information about the costs involved before making a final decision. 

Now as we know what a proforma invoice is, we can see what it includes. They typically include essential details such as the description of the goods or services, quantity, unit price, total amount, payment terms, and any other relevant terms and conditions.   

What is a Proforma Invoice? What is its purpose?  

A pro forma invoice is a preliminary document that serves as an estimate or quotation from a seller to a buyer. It outlines the details of a potential sale, including the description of goods or services, quantities, prices, and other terms and conditions. A proforma invoice gives the buyer an idea of the costs involved in a transaction before it is finalized.  

Here are some specific purposes of a pro forma invoice:   

1. Cost estimation

A pro forma invoice helps the buyer understand the total purchase cost, including the price per unit, quantity, and additional charges such as shipping fees, taxes, or customs duties. It allows the buyer to assess the financial feasibility of the transaction.  

2. Facilitating negotiations

Pro forma invoices can be used as a basis for negotiating the terms of a sale. If the buyer wants to modify the quantity, request a discount, or negotiate other terms, the proforma invoice provides a starting point for those discussions.  

3. Customs and import purposes

Proforma invoices are commonly used in international trade to comply with customs regulations. They provide necessary information to customs authorities, such as the value of the goods, origin, and other details required for customs clearance.  

4. Internal record-keeping

Businesses can use proforma invoices for internal record-keeping purposes. They help track potential sales, monitor pricing trends, and maintain a record of interactions with customers.  

5. Financial planning

Pro forma invoices are useful for businesses in forecasting and financial planning. They provide insights into potential revenue streams, allowing companies to project their future sales and estimate cash flow.  

Pro Forma Invoice vs. Final Invoice  

Pro forma and final invoices are used in business transactions but serve different purposes. They are issued at different stages of a transaction.

Here’s a detailed explanation of each:  

1. Final Invoice

A final invoice, also known as a commercial invoice, is issued by the seller to the buyer after the completion of a transaction. It provides an accurate and comprehensive record of the actual costs incurred, reflecting the final details of the sale. The key points to understand about a final invoice are as follows:  

2. Post transaction documentation

A final invoice is issued after the goods have been shipped or the services have been provided. It serves as a formal request for payment, indicating that the transaction is complete, and payment is due per the agreed-upon terms.  

3. Accurate and binding

Unlike a pro forma invoice, a final invoice accurately accounts for the actual costs incurred. It includes precise figures for the product prices, shipping charges, taxes, discounts (if applicable), and other relevant fees. The amounts mentioned in the final invoice are binding and require payment from the buyer.   

4. Payment terms and due date

A final invoice specifies the agreed-upon payment terms, such as the payment method, currency, due date, and any applicable discounts or late payment penalties. These terms are typically based on the mutually accepted conditions outlined in the pro forma invoice or any subsequent negotiations.  

5. Accounting and legal purposes

A final invoice is an important financial document for both the seller and the buyer. It is used for accounting purposes, enabling accurate record-keeping, tracking of revenues, and reconciliation of transactions. Additionally, the final invoice is legally enforceable, providing proof of the completed transaction and the financial obligations of both parties.  

What are Pro Forma Invoice Examples   

A pro forma invoice is a preliminary document issued by a seller to a buyer before the actual sale occurs. It outlines the details of a proposed transaction, including the products or services, quantities, prices, and other relevant terms and conditions. Proforma invoices are typically used in international trade or when a buyer requires a formal quotation for budgeting or customs purposes. Here are a few examples of proforma invoices:  

1. International shipment

A company exporting goods to another country may issue a proforma invoice to provide the buyer with an estimate of costs, including the product details, shipping terms, insurance, and any applicable taxes or duties.   

2. Service-based project

A consulting firm providing professional services might issue a pro forma invoice to a client detailing the scope of work, hourly rates, estimated hours, and any additional charges for expenses.  

3. Pre-order of goods

A retailer may issue a pro forma invoice to a customer who wants to pre-order a product that is yet to be available, specifying the item, anticipated delivery date, and any pre-payment requirements.  


A proforma invoice is valuable in business transactions. It serves as a preliminary document that outlines the details of a potential sale, providing important information such as itemized costs, quantities, and payment terms. By using a pro forma invoice, buyers and sellers can assess the financial implications of a transaction before finalizing it, helping to facilitate smoother negotiations and avoid misunderstandings. This document has become essential to international trade and other commercial activities with its flexibility and versatility. By understanding the required information and examining examples, businesses can harness the power of pro forma invoices to streamline their operations and enhance their financial planning. For a better understanding of proforma invoices and bookkeeping services, contact one of our experts at Monily.  

Also Read: 7 Easy Steps To Safeguarding Your Business Against The Fake Invoice Fraud

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Author Bio

Wajiha is a Brampton-based CPA, CGA, and Controller with 17+ years of experience in the financial services industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University and is a Chartered Certified Accountant. Wajiha spearheads Monily as its Director and is a leader who excels in helping teams achieve excellence. She talks about business financial health, innovative accounting, and all things finances.