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Client makes unexplained deductions from invoices
Thread poster: Jenny Forbes

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:59
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Dec 1, 2016

A French agency I've worked with occasionally for about four years is in the habit of making deductions from invoices without any explanation or justification. The deductions are not large, up to about €24, but it's annoying.

My work has always been delivered before the deadline. No "quality issues" have ever been raised. Receipt of my invoices has been acknowledged and the invoices have not been disputed in any way but when the payment (by bank transfer) arrives (theoretically 30 days net), it is for less than was invoiced. Nothing to do with tax or exchange rates - the amount in euros is less than the amount invoiced.

I've now discovered through Proz and another site where translators rate agencies that the agency owner makes such deductions from other translators' invoices too, so I'm not the only "victim". It looks like a deliberate ploy. The deductions are relatively small and she probably thinks that translators will decide the sums concerned aren't worth fighting about.

I've recorded my unwillingness to work for this person again on the Blue Board.

Have other Prozians experienced this tricky practice? Is it becoming more widespread? Is there anything translators can do to avoid being "done" in this way?


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Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:59
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Report it on BB, etc. Dec 1, 2016

Have you contacted them to clarify it? What have they said?

If that is not the case for such deductions (not agreed in NDA/Agreement), if it is not legal and should be reported in any competent platform, BB on Proz or any site representing and hosting professional translators.


Good luck.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:59
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, I asked for an explanation Dec 1, 2016

Yes, I asked for an explanation. Her reply was along the lines of "Well, I've paid you, haven't I?"
A difficult person to deal with generally, which is why I have decided to stop working with her.


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:59
Dutch to English
+ ...
Well it's not only annoying Dec 1, 2016

it's a problem in terms of accounting as well. I mean, do you have to enter this as costs, loss or whatever? If these are unexplained bank charges, for example, then fine (if she is sending payment from an account I think outside the EEA), but she can't expect you to pay tax on money you didn't receive.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:59
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
It adds up Dec 1, 2016

Jenny Forbes wrote:

The deductions are not large, up to about €24, but it's annoying.



Now, if you take 10 - 12 invoices per year, coming from an X-number of translators, and multiply it by € 24.00, this "little" amount can easily become a 4-digit amount, that is, of net profit for her. Does the IRS know about her activities?

Jenny Forbes wrote:

Her reply was along the lines of "Well, I've paid you, haven't I?"



Yes, she did pay you and all other translators, and by doing so she has willfully breached the contract(s). This "habit" of hers sounds very much like (premeditated) fraud on a larger scale.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:59
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Bank transfer charges? Dec 1, 2016

I am not sure where you are located and which banks are involved, but couldn't these be bank charges deducted from the money she sent? There are 3 charges involved with international bank transfers, unless it is done within the European system. 1. Sending bank's fees, 2. Intermediary fees, 3. Receiving bank's fees. Normally, 1 is paid by the client, 3 is paid by the translator, and 2 (if anticipated) has to be negotiated. The default setting AFAIK is that the recipient pays those, i.e. it gets deducted from the money that is being transferred.
Have you looked at the bank transfer note, specifically the comments section? If it was transferred via SWIFT, what was the SWIFT instruction code?


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:59
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not bank charges Dec 1, 2016

Thanks for your comments, everyone.
She doesn't make a deduction from my invoices every time, just sometimes. The transfer is a SEPA credit from the client's bank account in France to my HSBC account in the UK. France is in the Eurozone, is it not?
No intermediary bank is involved in the transfer. HSBC does not charge me for transfers from abroad to my account. I presume it takes its cut on the exchange rate.
I've no idea what this agency's status is with the French tax authorities.
I can only assume that making these small deductions is a deliberate policy, perhaps, as Thayenga points out, with the aim of eventually accumulating a "nice little earner", especially as other translators have reported similar behaviour by this agency.



[Edited at 2016-12-01 14:09 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:59
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Is there anything to be done? Yes! Dec 1, 2016

Jenny Forbes wrote:
Is there anything translators can do to avoid being "done" in this way?


Is there anything to be done? Yes! Just don't let this happen. There's one Euro missing, and the agency's mail says anything different than "we're sorry, we'll set this right straight away"? Send a payment reminder, maybe a second one. Are you sure it's not just an error, but deliberate? Then make a negative BB entry. Never work for them again. Take them to court. Yes, even if it's one Euro.

My 2 cents.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:59
Romanian to English
+ ...
Accounting? Dec 1, 2016

I've no idea how they can keep their accounting clean with such practices.

1) Threaten them with a report to their tax administration. If they indeed make these unauthorized deductions, they will have problems with the auditor.

But it's not just their accounts that will look good dubious, but yours, as well. If you are audited, the auditor can rightfully assume you received the difference in cash that you haven't reported.

2) Send them a payment reminder, listing all these minor differences, starting from the first time you noticed this practice. Treat it like you would treat any case of non-payment, because that's what it is. "No, you haven't paid me, my invoice was for EUR X, you paid less than that, which means you legally owe me money". Unfortunately, her reaction suggests she's doing it on purpose.

When you receive the payment, does it come from the agency's bank account or from a private individual's account? If the payment is sent from a private account, it is fraud, I'm sure.

[Edited at 2016-12-01 14:25 GMT]


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:59
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
You haven't been paid in full Dec 1, 2016

If I were you Jenny I'd contact the agency sending notice of the negative Blue Board entry as you have not been paid in full, giving them a deadline by which they can either pay all your invoices in full or be reported to the authorities.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:59
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My bank's advice note Dec 1, 2016

Under Proz rules, I'm not allowed to disclose this agency's name or any identifying information here.

My bank's advice note concerning the agency's most recent (short) payment gave the following details about the account from which the payment was made:

Originator name: [agency owner's forename and surname]
Originator identification code: None
End-to-end reference number: [a reference number containing 16 digits, both letters and figures]
Payment details: [the agency's name followed by the reference number of my invoice].

It also, of course, gave my name as the beneficiary, the amount paid in euros, the exchange rate applied and the amount received in GB pounds. That's how I know that she paid me short.

I'm reluctant to have any further correspondence with this person. She's so unpleasant to deal with and I doubt it would get me my money anyway. I just wanted to issue a warning to other translators and highlight what may be a practice other unscrupulous clients might try. Maybe she'll read this thread and know that she's been rumbled ...


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:59
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Before you ditch her ... Dec 1, 2016

... you could accept another job, not too long and done as quickly as possible (because that will probably be your last job), leaving every other sentence or so untranslated. When she asks about it, say "Well, I translated it, didn't I?"


Mervyn


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:59
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
:D Dec 1, 2016

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

... you could accept another job, not too long and done as quickly as possible (because that will probably be your last job), leaving every other sentence or so untranslated. When she asks about it, say "Well, I translated it, didn't I?"

Mervyn


Mei, mei, mei, perhaps a little mean but fair. A truly funny idea, yet this would lower Jenny to her client's standards.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 07:59
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
How about an invoice Dec 1, 2016

Annamaria and others make good points about accounting issues etc, I would definitely keep pestering them until they pay.

How about sending the client one last invoice with an itemised list of all the missing amounts? Something like this:
Amount missing from invoice X -- ZZZ
Amount missing from invoice Y -- ZZZ
...
TOTAL ZZZ

[Edited at 2016-12-01 16:40 GMT]


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inesec  Identity Verified
Latvia
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
I would add the following sentence: Dec 1, 2016

Niina Lahokoski wrote:

Annamaria and others make good points about accounting issues etc, I would definitely keep pestering them until they pay.

How about sending the client one last invoice with an itemised list of all the missing amounts? Something like this:
Amount missing from invoice X -- ZZZ
Amount missing from invoice Y -- ZZZ
...
TOTAL ZZZ

[Edited at 2016-12-01 16:40 GMT]


In case of non-payment, I reserve the right to inform tax authorities of your country about your practices.


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