Definition: A pro forma invoice is delivered to a buyer in special circumstances - typically, when all details for the invoice are not yet known.
A pro forma invoice is a document that states a commitment on part of the seller to deliver the products or services as notified to the buyer for a specific price. It is thus not a true invoice.
The seller should not register a pro forma invoice as an accounts receivable, and conversely the buyer should not register this type of invoice as an accounts payable.
Pro forma invoices are used if you need to produce a document to a customer for products or services that you are yet to deliver.
Pro forma invoices are typically sent in order to declare the value of goods for customs.
Pro forma invoices should not be regarded as VAT invoices, which means that they should contain the phrase 'This is not a VAT invoice'.
When the buyer agrees to the products or services included in the pro forma invoice, and you deliver these items, you are obliged to send a true VAT invoice within the given time-frame.
You can learn more about this on the UK customs and tax department (HMRC) website.