Import – export Manual – International trade documents

Manual ABC of Import Export

Import – export Manual – International trade documents


Goods are classified by sector by a precise nomenclature, which allows a single identification for duty and tax application purposes. Depending upon the type of goods, additional documents and certificates may be required by the customs for goods to enter the country of destination. Below are the documents which are commonly used when carrying out international commercial transactions:

Commercial invoice: this is issued by the seller in the language required by the country of destination of the goods and of the number of copies required. The invoice must contain the following information: the name and the full address of the exporter and of the recipient, information about the goods (description, quantity, price), the INCOTERMS, the name of the carrier/shipper, the ancillary costs (e.g. packaging and insurance), the settlement of payment method, the country of origin of the goods, and reference to the legislation concerning VAT application and exemption. Please note that the price must be expressed in the agreed currency.

Loading list: this is issued by the seller and must contain: the commercial invoice number, the number and type of packages, the description of the goods in each package, any details about the container in which the goods will be loaded.

Certificate of origin: this certificate must be requested from the territorially competent Chamber of Commerce and it certifies the non-preferential origin of the goods. However, it does not certify the exportation, although it is issued following an invoice concerning an international sale. The instructions concerning the issue of the certificate are provided by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

EUR1 Certificate: this certificate certifies that the goods have a EU origin, and constitutes the documentary evidence needed for the application of the preferential tariff scheme (reduced or nil duty) on the basis of bilateral agreements between the EU and some countries. In order to obtain this certificate, the exporter must submit a written application for which he is responsible.

Certificate of free sale: this certificate is required by some non-EU countries and it certifies that the goods exported by the Italian business are sold freely in Italy as well as in EU and non-EU countries. The goods must comply with the health and safety regulations in force. Moreover, the applicant should be aware that this certificate does not replace any ministerial certificate required for the type of goods exported. The certificate of free sale is issued by the territorially competent Chamber of Commerce following a request written on letterhead paper and submitted by the exporter.

ATA Carnet (Admission Temporaire /Temporary Admission): the ATA Carnet is an international customs document for the temporary exportation (in the countries adhering to the convention) of: goods for tradeshows and trade events, commercial samples and professional equipment. This document frees the holder from paying customs duties, as security, to the customs or from paying a security deposit to the customs themselves. The Carnet facilitates the movement of goods from one country to another, through the simple submission, to the customs offices of each of the countries, of the document where the goods are listed.

Transport Document: this document certifies the signing of a shipping contract between the sender and the carrier, it also constitutes evidence of acceptance, by the carrier, of goods for shipping according to the terms agreed by the parties. The main transport documents are: the sea consignment note, the air consignment note, the rail consignment note and the road consignment note.

Insurance Certificate: this document contains the conditions and clauses of the insurance contract stipulated on the goods to be moved from the sender to the recipient. With respect to the documents needed to accompany the goods to non-EU Countries, in addition to the certificate of origin, the Chamber of Commerce also issues:

• stamp and approval on export invoices/export declarations/price lists
• stamp for signature certified true of the legal representative on documents to be sent abroad.


Reference Regulations:
• Directive 2001/115/EC: this directive simplifies and updates invoicing procedures concerning VAT.
• Directive 2010/45/EC: this directive modifies the regulations concerning invoicing.
• Italian Legislative Decree 52/2004 implementing the 2001/115/EC Directive which simplifies and updates invoicing procedures concerning VAT.
According to such regulations, invoices that are issued and stored electronically are treated equally to paper invoices. The Italian Decree that implements the Directive provides information on the production of electronic invoices, on their integrity, on their proper transfer and storage on digital devices. In accordance with the above-mentioned Decree, electronic transmission of information is subject to an agreement with the recipient. Moreover, the electronic invoice must be a non-modifiable document, must have a precise time reference and must contain the sender’s qualified electronic signature.

The Transport Document

The transport or delivery document is a document required in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Italian Republic 472/1996. Under this Decree, it is no longer obligatory that the transportation is accompanied by a pre-numbered document. The transport or delivery document allows for differed invoicing (under section 4 of Article 21 of the Decree of the President of the Italian Republic 633/1972).


The SAD is a form whose characteristics are found in EU Regulations. The document has the layout used for customs declarations for all customs procedures and destinations used by those who operate in international trade. The implementation of the SAD is regulated by the EEC Regulation 2454/93 (Provisions implementing the Community Customs Code). With respect to exiting goods, copy No. 1 of the SAD is received by the Customs Office of Export which then issues a paper copy of the Export Accompanying Document (EAD) which accompanies the goods to the customs office of exit. Through an electronic message, sent to the customs office where the declaration of export, transit, or export with transit has been submitted, this office verifies the operation via the so-called “Exit results” message. The operators who need proof of exit for VAT purposes, must check the status of the operation by entering the Movement Reference Number (MRN) into the web site of “Agenzia delle Dogane” (Italian Customs Agency).

IMPORTANT: In Italy, for VAT purposes, the only proof that the goods have left the customs territory of the Community is the exit results message which can be found on the website of the Italian customs. If the customs declaration is submitted to a non-Italian customs office, it will not be possible to check the MRN status and consequently it will be necessary to resort to the so-called alternative proof (see the statement No. 72094 of 20 May 2009 of the Italian Customs Agency).