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Best invoice number format
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Jan 31, 2012

G'day everyone

For those of you who have experimented with many different invoice number formats, can you tell me which number format works best (all things considered)?

I know the numbers must be sequential but that is the only requirement I have. At this time, my invoice numbers look something like this:

120127-ABC-21003

...in which 120127 is the date of the deadline of the job (27 January 2012), ABC is the client code, and 003 is the sequential number. The "21" front of the 003 is just padding to make it look less unimpressive (and every year I do business, it increases by 1, so last year it was "20").

It is a new tax year for me, and I can now change my invoice number format again, if I want to. What would you suggest?

I'm considering quite strongly to place the actual number at the start (not at the end) so that I can use Excel's simple text sort method to get invoices in the correct numerical order. Another thing that I could do is to add a number or letter for the quarter (since I have to submit VAT returns 4 times a year). Another thing that might be useful is a letter or number indicating whether this client is VAT-free, VAT-shifted, or VAT-full (since I can't always tell by just the client codes whether it is the one or the other type).

What is your opinion? What works best?

Samuel



[Edited at 2012-01-31 21:12 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Interesting post Jan 31, 2012

Hello Samuel,

Yes, it's something I toy with every now and again. At the moment I'm using T-CCyynnn. T denotes Translation rather than training (thankfully, that's "formation" in French!); CC = client identifier, followed by year number and sequential number.

I'm not very happy with mine, for much the same reasons as you give. I think your idea is very good. If you start with the 21, you'll always be reminded of how experienced you are (or how the years are flashing by, depending on your mood!).

I'm about to relocate to the Canary Islands so it's a great opportunity to change mine. I don't really have anything more to add, but I'll be following the thread with interest.

Sheila


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It doesn't matter. Jan 31, 2012

It's whatever works for you. But I'd discourage you from using long references - some of my clients use enormously complicated PO numbers, which is (a) irritating and (b) introduces scope for getting it wrong. I just use a four-digit number.

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:13
German to English
+ ...
Year and number Feb 1, 2012

I just use the year and invoice number: 2012_001, 2012_002, etc., but in the majority of cases I invoice monthly (or so) rather than per job to save on bank fees, so I don't have that many invoices total in a year.

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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
Date time due Feb 1, 2012

I find that if the folder name imemdiately reminds me of the date and time the job is due, it is a big help. So this ends up also being my invoice number. Thus: YYMMDDTT of when it is due.
They end up being sequential, but not serial, if that makes sense. Excel will put them in order just fine. This thread is making me wonder if US tax laws require the number to go up by one each time, so I guess I'd better do a little research. -- Anyone know for sure?
(BTW in case it matters, I am a sole proprietor, not incorporated, or limited liability or anything like that.)
Thanks in advance.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:13
English to German
+ ...
Here is my system Feb 1, 2012

My invoice numbers look like this:

XXX-MMDDYYYY-ABC

A consecutive number at the beginning, the invoice date in the middle, and the client ID at the end. All invoices are printed and kept in binders for each year. This way they are already prepared for the tax accountant or in case of an auditing procedure and are also easily accessible to my business partner when he works on banking and finances. It also allows me to add handwritten notes ("Paid", "Reminder sent on...", "Minus banking fee / Paypal fee in the amount of..." and I can attach the respective PO, check stubs or other transaction documentation. Doing taxes or forecasts goes in a snap.

Aside from the hard copy version I keep my invoices in my client folders for each year instead of one separate invoice folder.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:13
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Simply number and year Feb 1, 2012

Our number here in the office is simply nnn-yy, being nnn a zero-padded sequential number that starts from 1 every January, and yy the last two digits of the year. I think that adding more information to the number makes it a bit confusing and more difficult to sort.

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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:13
English to Dutch
+ ...
I use the date and a aequence number Feb 1, 2012

so all my invoices have the format DDMMYYXXXX, where XXXX is the sequence. So an invoice on 2nd January, 2012, being the first of the year, would be 0201120001. That way, I can always see when the invoice was issued (and emailed to the client, because as a rule I never make an invoice without sending it).

Worked fine for me the past few years.


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xxxchristela
Simplified Feb 1, 2012

AXXX = one letter, which indicates the year for me, and three digits which are strictly sequential for tax reasons.
The following year: BXXX, etc.
When ZXXX will be used, then I will start all over again, AXXX.


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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:13
Portuguese to English
+ ...
3 Indicators Feb 1, 2012

I use this format:

ABC1_2012
ABC2_2012
etc

where ABC are the initials of the client. It is simple and has worked so far.

PS: It's a very interesting topic, Samuel. I have often wondered how our colleagues handle this.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:13
Member
English to French
Started with 0001 Feb 1, 2012

...and stopped with 1126, before moving to Spain.
I don't know if it is the best system, but it was the simplest and less redundant, as dates and clients are stated on the invoice anyway.
I have never felt this numbering missed any information, even though it may have shown how fresh in the business I was at one point.
For admin, I use Translation Office 3000, so invoice numbers per se are a non-information.
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Our number here in the office is simply nnn-yy, being nnn a zero-padded sequential number that starts from 1 every January, and yy the last two digits of the year. I think that adding more information to the number makes it a bit confusing and more difficult to sort.

Spanish tax authorities require new numbering from 1 each calendar year, and some reference to the year in invoice numbers . I now use YYYY-nnn to meet requirements, nothing more either.

Philippe


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:13
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Spanish requirements Feb 1, 2012

Philippe Etienne wrote:
Spanish tax authorities require new numbering from 1 each calendar year, and some reference to the year in invoice numbers . I now use YYYY-nnn to meet requirements, nothing more either.


Thanks, Philippe - that's just the information I hoped to learn from this thread.

Sheila


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dutch tax law Feb 1, 2012

Philippe Etienne wrote:
Spanish tax authorities require new numbering from 1 each calendar year, and some reference to the year in invoice numbers . I now use YYYY-nnn to meet requirements, nothing more either.


Unless I'm mistaken (and please correct me if I'm wrong), the Dutch tax law requires that the invoice numbers in any given tax year has a sequential number in it, and there should be no gaps between the invoice numbers. However, there is no need to start the numbering at "1"... as long as there are no gaps after the starting number.


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Kitty Brussaard  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:13
Member (2009)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Unique sequential number Feb 1, 2012

Samuel Murray wrote:

Unless I'm mistaken (and please correct me if I'm wrong), the Dutch tax law requires that the invoice numbers in any given tax year has a sequential number in it, and there should be no gaps between the invoice numbers. However, there is no need to start the numbering at "1"... as long as there are no gaps after the starting number.



No reason to correct you as you're not mistaken This is exactly what I was told by the employee of the Dutch tax authorities who paid me a visit shortly after I had started my own business! BTW, this information can also be found on the site of the Belastingdienst.

For this reason, I simply use the yyyy-xxx format - with xxx representing the sequential number - and only change the yyyy part with the start of each new year.

Works fine as long as you haven't issued 999 invoices!

[Edited at 2012-02-01 19:58 GMT]


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:13
German to English
+ ...
Don't think so Feb 2, 2012

Jessica Noyes wrote:
This thread is making me wonder if US tax laws require the number to go up by one each time, so I guess I'd better do a little research. -- Anyone know for sure?
(BTW in case it matters, I am a sole proprietor, not incorporated, or limited liability or anything like that.)
Thanks in advance.


Hi,
I have never come across a set of rules for invoices in the US (unlike in Europe). My accountant has never mentioned it at all. A quick search of the IRS site doesn't turn up anything either, other than general mentions of invoices as a category of business records that must be kept to show income in a given year.


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