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What must an invoice contain? Call for comments.
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Nov 15, 2007

G'day everyone

The question of invoicing often recurs in the forums, so I've written a preliminary article about invoices for the ProZwiki. Please take a look at it and tell me what you think should be added, changed, etc. Comment, please.

===========================================

= What must an invoice contain? =

Deciding what must go onto an invoice is a mixture of law and superstition -- your country's law and the client's accountant's superstition. The purpose of an invoice is to get payment, and the invoice must therefore be optimised so that the client is most likely to pay quickly.

Strictly speaking, an invoice can be written in the form of a business letter, but you'll get paid faster if your invoice looks similar to the other invoices on the bookkeeper's desk... so you might want to use a spreadsheet layout instead.

Clients often have specific requirements about what must go onto an invoice -- stick to those to get payment quickly. For example, the client might ask that you put the source and target languages on the invoice, or that you add a number of seemingly unnecessary reference numbers instead of just the purchase order number.

To determine what your invoice should contain, first contact a local tax consultant to find out if your local tax authorities have special requirements for the invoice, and if there are some things you can do to make the invoice more acceptable to the tax collector or the tax auditor.

== What the invoice should contain ==

What an invoice must contain, differs from country to country, but a bare minimum information might be the following:

* The word "INVOICE"
* Your name and address (or the name, address and registration number of your business)
* The client's name and address
* The date that the invoice was written
* A description of the job done
* A job reference number (often the purchase order number, to identify the job)
* The final amount owing

Optionally, you might want to add the following:

* The preferred method of payment
* The terms of payment (i.e. how and when)
* A breakdown of the costs that make up the total
* If multiple documents were translated, the names and word counts of each document

Depending on the country, the following may be required or preferred:

* An invoice number (so that the client can easily refer to it). Sometimes there are specific requirements, for example that the invoice number must be numerical.
* The translator's VAT number (if registered for VAT in his country)
* A statement that you're not registered for VAT (if that is the case)
* The translator's personal or business tax number
* The translator's identity number or social security number (although in some countries eg the USA it may actually be a crime for a client do demand this information without reasonable reason)
* The physical address of the translator's bank
* Any other reference numbers of the translator's bank

Odd things sometimes found on invoices:

* A statement saying "This is not a receipt".
* CRC code for the delivered documents (to prevent fraud)

== Invoicing software ==

* Translation Office 3000
* more?

== Previous forum threads ==

* http://www.proz.com/topic/20238
* http://www.proz.com/topic/25799
* http://www.proz.com/topic/34250
* http://www.proz.com/topic/36481
* http://www.proz.com/topic/44862
* http://www.proz.com/topic/44896
* http://www.proz.com/topic/62078
* http://www.proz.com/topic/70690
* http://www.proz.com/topic/82549
* http://www.proz.com/topic/88664

===========================================

One might at some stage add a subsection detailling specific requirement or tips for various countries.


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xxxCMJ_Trans
Local time: 04:34
French to English
+ ...
to be very complete.... Nov 15, 2007

some extras:

1) form of payment preferred/required (bank transfer/cheque/paypal......) + plus the corresponding details in each case (i.e. cheque to the order of......)

2) enclosures, for example any travel documents, in the case of an interpreting assignment where the client has to reimburse travel and other costs

3) when giving the total price payable, in some countries they expect you to write out the sum in words as well putting it in figures

4) Client VAT number. Not sure how many countries require this but in Belgium you have to quote the client's VAT number in your invoice. It may be the case in other countries too.


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Irene Elmerot  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:34
Member (2005)
Dutch to Swedish
+ ...
EU directive Nov 15, 2007

Since EU translators and companies sometimes are confused about VAT, there is a good line for intra-EU invoices. It says
Reverse charge, article 9.2e 6th VAT directive
That means that the translator doesn't charge VAT from the client (agency or whatever), and if the local tax authorities start making a fuss, the translator can point them to the page where the directive is published: http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l31006.htm (available in most EU languages, click the drop down menu top right corner, now saying "english").

Some agencies in the EU now demand that we write this on all invoices, and that's no problem (as far as I can tell).


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Annelise Meyer  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:34
English to French
+ ...
Client's VAT number Nov 15, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Depending on the country, the following may be required or preferred:

* An invoice number (so that the client can easily refer to it). Sometimes there are specific requirements, for example that the invoice number must be numerical.
* The translator's VAT number (if registered for VAT in his country)
* A statement that you're not registered for VAT (if that is the case)
* The translator's personal or business tax number
* The translator's identity number or social security number (although in some countries eg the USA it may actually be a crime for a client do demand this information without reasonable reason)
* The physical address of the translator's bank
* Any other reference numbers of the translator's bank





Hi samuel,

if the company is registered in the EU, the translator should also add the company's VAT number so the VAT exemption can apply. Maybe you can also add the Web site's address where you can check the VAT numbers: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/vieshome.do?selectedLanguage=EN.

I know in my country (France) you also have to name the Tax rule that allows you not to charge VAT to the client (article 259B du CGI). I suppose this must apply in other coutries as well.

I think this is it, thanks for taking the time to gather all information, I would have appreciated to have it all in one place when I issued my first invoices

Cheers,
Annelise


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José Miguel Braña Montaña  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:34
Member (2007)
French to Spanish
+ ...
Multilingual invoice Nov 15, 2007

Hi,
Writing your invoice in at least two languages (yours and your client's) can avoid problems with the client and speed payment. (This has been discussed not long ago.)

Therefore I recommend to use a bilingual or multilingual template for your invoices. I personally has written mine in four languages (Spanish, Galician, English and French). To avoid a messy aspect, I use a bold and bigger font for the Spanish text (since I have to deliver my invoices to the Spanish authorities) and a smaller font for the three other languages (I place them just below the Spanish line).

Regards,

Miguel


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xxxJon O  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:34
Dutch to English
+ ...
due payment date.. Nov 15, 2007

I am increasingly writing something like 'Payment due on or before ....' on my invoices in the silly romantic hope that it might encourage some clients to pay on time...

Can't say it's having much of an effect though...


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:34
French to English
Optionally?! :-) Nov 15, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Optionally, you might want to add the following:

* The preferred method of payment
* The terms of payment (i.e. how and when)


Still, I suppose this might explain why we see so many "I haven't been paid" threads

I would suggest that you make a distinction between what is legally mandatory, and what common sense dictates should surely appear on each and every freelancer's invoice (e.g. the above, IMHO).
A table may be the easiest way to show the legal requirements in each country.

Don't forget that in most circumstances where VAT is applied, it is a requirement to show the anount w/out VAT and the VAT amount itself separately.

It might be worth pointing out in these days of globalisation that the CURRENCY can be useful.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the comments Nov 15, 2007

Charlie Bavington wrote:
I would suggest that you make a distinction between what is legally mandatory, and what common sense dictates...


This is a nice distinction, but it would require a lot more research from the original author because he'd have to find out where to get the relevant information for each country.

Don't forget that in most circumstances where VAT is applied, it is a requirement to show the anount w/out VAT and the VAT amount itself separately.


Actually, in South Africa you needn't show the w/out VAT amount separately if all the items on the invoice include VAT and there is a note saying "All prices include VAT of XX%".

It might be worth pointing out in these days of globalisation that the CURRENCY can be useful.


Now that you mention it... I've actually had one or two non-local clients who didn't mention the currency in their purchase orders, but thankfully the currency was mentioned in the e-mails so I knew what to invoice for. It is strange to me to write an amount without indicating currency, but to other people, I guess...


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Haiyang Ai  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:34
English to Chinese
+ ...
Software automation Nov 15, 2007

There're many invoicing softwares for translators to do the job automatically. For instance, QuickBook, it is a very large software package. It has invoicing capabilities. It can even reminds you which invoice is overdue. But I like PractiCount, it can do invoice, and allows you to add customised fields. As the name suggest, it can count words and lines. In this sense, it's practical to translators.


***************************
Haiyang Ai
Chinese Translator
Web site: www.chineservice.com
****************************


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:34
Dutch to English
+ ...
Disclaimer Nov 15, 2007

Given that requirements differ from country to country, I'd suggest adding a disclaimer to the article itself Samuel.

[Edited at 2007-11-15 15:57]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What good will a disclaimer do? Nov 15, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:
Given that requirements differ from country to country, I'd suggest adding a disclaimer to the article itself.


I suspect many things differ from country to country, but we don't go adding disclaimers all over the show. But I'm curious... what good would a disclaimer do? Is it to protect myself or to protect the reader?


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:34
German to English
+ ...
Unit count Nov 15, 2007

I would avoid the use of "word count" and use "unit count" or something similar since many different units could be used - word, line, page, hour, slide, minute, etc.

Otherwise, I think that's a good introduction and will be useful to point to when newbies ask that perennial question.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:34
French to English
All true Nov 15, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Charlie Bavington wrote:
I would suggest that you make a distinction between what is legally mandatory, and what common sense dictates...


This is a nice distinction, but it would require a lot more research from the original author because he'd have to find out where to get the relevant information for each country.


True, but it's a wiki, isn't it, so the author deosn't need to research the oddities that may or may not apply in Burkina Faso or the Turks and Caicos Islands. You need a structure to the document so that anyone based there, or needing to invoice a client there, can immediately find what they've after.

And your example about VAT in SA is an excellent example of how tricky the task is. Do you have to express it they way you did in SA, or is it permissible to use the format I'm used to seeing in Europe of:
amount excl. VAT
VAT (with indication of % applied, which varies)
------------
Total incl VAT

I'm not sure, for example, that the SA way is allowed in, e.g. France.

I don't want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of VAT here, but it demonstrates how hard it is to:
a) know everything
b) find a decent format by which 'everything' can be expressed clearly.

The alternative would be, if I may make a suggestion, to define the ideal generic invoice, which covers every (major) eventuality. An invoice which, even if it includes some info which is not necessary in some countries, can never be "wrong". Just an idea...

It is strange to me to write an amount without indicating currency, but to other people, I guess...

Right enough, but you've taken the decision to advise people to write their own names on the invoice, so clearly you're starting from a f-a-i-r-l-y basic level


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lbone  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:34
English to Chinese
+ ...
client's address? Nov 16, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:
== What the invoice should contain ==
* The client's name and address


I never put the address of my client in my invoice. Nothing bad happened because of this. Is there any danger?


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:34
French to English
If you've been paid... Nov 16, 2007

lbone wrote:
I never put the address of my client in my invoice. Nothing bad happened because of this. Is there any danger?
... then presumably not

I personally put quite a lot of info on invoices, because then everyone has the maximum amount of info. This includes allowing the client to confirm that the invoice is actually intended for him/her. Many agencies have names that are remarkably similar - adding the address helps identify them correctly. I don't think I've ever billed the wrong company for the wrong job, but it's only a matter of time


[Edited at 2007-11-16 23:40]


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