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ProForma Invoice Under GST

Prakash Matre
Prakash Matre at August 27, 2023

ProForma Invoice 

Proforma Invoice: Before shaking hands on a contract, businesses usually negotiate the terms of the deal, the selling price, discounts, and delivery dates. After these negotiations have been completed, the Company recommends sending a pro forma invoice to the purchaser showing the services agreed upon. This document also serves as a provisional contract and is known as a pro forma invoice.

Pro forma in Latin stands for ‘for the sake of form,’ suggesting that it is only a provisional document and will ultimately be an official document. Although proforma invoices are widely accustomed it is easy to confuse them with recurring invoices. This article seeks to clarify the meaning of proforma invoices using illustrations, explain their uses, and demystify the distinctions between a Proforma Invoice and an invoice.

What would you do if you received a bill marked as ‘Pro Forma invoice’? Many questions arise about whether this is binding on the seller or if it has a time limit to act on. Moreover, if you are a supplier, maybe you have questions about whether the Proforma Invoice format for GST has changed under GST or not, does proforma invoice include GST. Here are all the answers you will need for these questions.

What Does a Proforma Invoice Mean?

Proforma invoice meaning is a provisional invoice sent to the buyer before the sale is confirmed. This invoice highlights the services provided by the seller, such as the goods or services to be delivered, their prices, delivery information, and delivery dates. After checking the Pro Forma invoice, the buyer provides the green light to the seller. The seller proceeds to transmit a sales invoice and begins operating on their part of the contract manufacturing the outcomes or providing the service.

What Is A Pro Forma Invoice?

A Proforma invoice GST is a document that presents information about the particulars of the goods or services that are yet to be delivered or performed. This has the estimated prices of goods or services and the other details like commission, shipping costs, shipment weight, and applicable taxes. A retailer/supplier usually issues this invoice first to a customer, informing them about the goods/services proposed/finalised before a Tax/Commercial invoice is provided.

Is a Proforma Invoice Legally Binding?

Pro forma invoices and final sales invoices contain much of the same information. Nevertheless, a Proforma invoice is not lawfully binding because the terms of sale are still subject to change.

In this sense, a pro forma invoice is more like a sales proposal than a final sales invoice. In other words, don't record total amounts owed in your accounts receivable or use Pro Forma invoices to charge value-added tax (VAT).

When Is a Proforma Invoice Issued?

A Proforma invoice is issued when the seller has discussed preparations for the sale with the buyer. However, since the final details of the transaction have not yet been confirmed by the buyer, we are unable to send a formal invoice. Issue pro forma invoices so buyers know exactly what to expect from sellers.

When Is A Pro Forma Invoice Issued/Used?

A Proforma invoice in GST is usually raised before the actual sale happens. It is generally issued if a customer asks the supplier for a document about the goods or services yet to be delivered. It is also used for the smooth delivery processing of imports and exports (for customs).

How Is A Pro Forma Invoice Useful?

This can be explained with the help of a typical example: If you have chosen to buy a car, you will visit the showroom and finalise a price and even pay a deposit before the vehicle is delivered. At this time, the showroom will provide you with a Proforma invoice under GST. After the car is ready, you will receive an invoice that you pay for. This final Tax or GST on proforma Invoice will have the details as mentioned in the Proforma invoice India. or in case there are changes in the final price/terms, it will be visible here.


Contents Of GST Proforma Invoice

A Pro Forma invoice under GST is not very different from what it was before GST. However, it will need to have the GST registration number and additional information such as the HSN code/SAC code and the bifurcated tax rate and amount (SGST, CGST, IGST, and UTGST). An ideal invoice proforma should contain the following information:

  • Unique Invoice Number
  • Date of issue
  • Address of the supplier with GSTIN
  • Address of the prospect/customer
  • Description of the goods and services along with the cost per unit, HSN/SAC code, bifurcated tax rate and amount, the value of goods/services
  • Validity of the Pro Forma invoice
  • Terms of payment
  • Custom authorities certifications (if needed)
  • Suppliers/Authorised person's signature

Important: This invoice should contain the words ‘Pro Forma invoice’. Some vendors also add the words ‘This is not a GST bill’ or bill proforma invoice in GST.

Importance Of Pro Forma Invoice

  • A Pro Forma invoice can be used to give the customer an estimate of the sale price for the goods/services that are going to be offered.
  • This invoice also helps in understanding the contents that are to be shipped, the shipping time, the value of the goods, etc., so that the customer knows the approximate value of the goods and time for delivery.
  • It is instrumental when two companies or individuals are working together for the first time.
  • There is no mandate for issuing a Pro Forma invoice. However, Businesses voluntarily issue this document as a universally accepted best practice.

A Proforma Invoice Use Case:

Assume that a computer domains manufacturer called Cerry Components receives an order for 5,000 computer monitors. Upon obtaining the order, without any negotiation or guarantee, Cerry Components starts procuring the materials for the monitors and begins manufacturing them. Within a month, production will be completed and Cerry Components will invoice the buyer. Examining invoices, buyers are dissatisfied for the following reasons:

  • They think the price is too increased and could have been bargained
  • They wanted the delivery date before
  • They want a lengthier payment duration

So, Cerry Components can still make amends by lowering their prices, streaming to meet the deadlines, nullifying their previous invoice, and making a new invoice that meets the requirements but doing business this way is disorganized and inadequate.

Alternatively, Cherry Components issues a pro forma invoice containing computer monitor prices, delivery dates, and payment terms. The buyer gets the option to negotiate with the seller to find mutually agreeable terms. Once approved, Gary Components will send a pro forma invoice as a good faith document and begin manufacturing computer monitors. Once manufacturing is complete, pro forma invoices can be converted to sales invoices using invoicing software or accounting tools.

Why Do Businesses Use Proforma Invoices?

Proforma invoices streamline the sales process as they confirm that both parties agreed to the terms from the beginning. This eliminates interactions between buyers and sellers that can lead to additional production costs, rushed deliveries, or customer dissatisfaction.

If your business uses invoicing software, pro forma invoices can save you even more time. The details in the pro forma invoice, the software can automatically create a formal invoice after the sale is confirmed.

Additionally, some companies may require a pro forma invoice for their internal purchase approval process. However, the buyer requires a formal and legally binding invoice for the accounts payable. Pro forma invoices used for international trade.

The Fields in a Proforma Invoice:

Unlike invoices, which contain a predefined set of fields, pro forma invoices can have whatever is relevant at the moment of creation. The only visual difference between pro forma invoices and sales invoices is that an invoice number is not required for pro forma invoices, whereas an invoice number is required for sales invoices.

However, Pro Forma Invoices Typically Include the Following Fields:

  1. Document titled "Proforma Invoice" 
  2. Buyer details such as company name, billing address, and shipping address 
  3. Information about the seller, such as company name and address
  4. Payment terms
  5. Invoice creation date
  6. Invoice expiration date
  7. Description of the goods or services
  8. The prices of the goods and services
  9. Quantity of the goods and services
  10. Discounts
  11. Taxes
  12. Total

Pro Forma vs Other Types of Invoices

The purpose of a Proforma invoice is to deliver the final details of an order to the buyer before they engage in a buy. Based on this honest estimate, the buyer can decide whether to proceed with the sale.

Proforma Invoice Vs Invoice

While invoices are formal and legally binding, Pro Forma invoices merely set expectations for buyers and sellers. In contrast, standard or formal invoices are recorded in Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable and comply with accounting purposes during tax audits. The accounts payable process uses proforma invoices to create sales and formal invoices to confirm sales.

A pro forma invoice usually contains all the information of a standard invoice, but must be marked as "pro forma". A reference standard invoice's pro forma invoice number be provided to avoid double-spending.

Proforma Invoice vs Commercial Invoice

Pro forma invoices and commercial invoices are common export documents in international trade. However, the main difference is in usage. Buyers use pro forma invoices to overcome import restrictions that may affect sales. For example, a buyer can use a pro forma invoice to indicate to the government why an import license is required. This allows you to prepare to receive broadcasts more efficiently.

In comparison, Commercial invoices are used by customs to determine duties, taxes, and other import charges associated with a sale. Commercial invoices also contain important instructions for shippers, import brokers, marine insurance companies, and buyer's and seller's banks.

Proforma Invoice vs. Purchase Order

At face value, a Proforma invoice expresses identical to a purchase order. Both documents comprise :

  • Descriptions
  • Quantities
  • Prices
  • Discounts
  • Payment terms
  • Other terms of the sale

Nevertheless, the distinction between a Proforma invoice and a Purchase order is their source: The seller designs and sends a Pro Forma invoice to the customer. When it comes to a purchase order, it’s the customer (and their accounts payable division) who issues and transmits it to the seller and utilizes the document for invoice matching when expending payment.

A purchase order is deemed a commercial record. The Proforma invoice is an offer to sell, not a confirmation, but a formal confirmation of the sale. As such, the order constitutes a legally binding agreement, but the pro forma terms of the invoice are subject to change.

Example of Proforma Invoice Format

A pro forma invoice is not a formal proof of sale representing the buyer and allows the seller to negotiate terms. Here's how pro forma invoices are used in manufacturing use cases:

For Instance, a clothing manufacturer called XYZ Clothing receives an order for 10,000 shirts. After receiving the order, XYZ Clothing begins production without discussing it with the buyer. 

Once they finish production, XYZ Clothing sends an official invoice to the buyer. Nevertheless, buyers are dissatisfied because they wished for faster delivery times and longer payment terms and were able to negotiate lower prices.

At this moment, XYZ Clothing could still recover the sale by rushing to fulfil the delivery deadline, abolishing the original invoice, and constructing a new one with prices and payment terms the buyer agrees to. However, this adds excessive duration and confusion to their workflow.

To avoid these circumstances, XYZ Clothing could create a Proforma invoice instead. Upon receipt of the order, the apparel manufacturer will issue a pro forma invoice containing:

  • Details like the price for 10,000 shirts
  • Expected delivery date
  • Suggested payment terms
  • Early payment discounts

Once the buyer receives the Pro Forma invoice, they can negotiate the terms of the sale, including discounts for early payment. If XYZ Clothing takes these terms, they will transmit an updated Proforma invoice for both parties to settle on as a good belief estimate; only then do they begin production. 

Finally, invoicing software can be used to generate formal invoices using the information provided on pro forma invoices, which saves even more duration in the deals process.


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