Which language to use for invoice?
Thread poster: Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Feb 13, 2008

Hello there,

I'm English but living in France - so far (as a relative newcomer to translating) all my invoices have been made out to French people, as have all my teaching invoices over the last 11 years, so they are labelled 'facture', and all the text is in French, including the statutory declaration about not adding VAT to the bill.

I'm currently doing a translation for an agency in Sweden. It's just a one-page CV, no purchase order etc just an exchange of emails in English. Now I need to prepare the invoice and it occurs to me that I don't actually know how to.

Obviously the text concerning the actual job (words translated etc) could be in either language, but should I change things like TVA to VAT; facture to invoice; février to February etc - and, above all, do I translate the tax declaration that the authorities told me to use?

It seems to me that the tax people here in France could be upset if I don't do what they say, but can I expect someone to pay a bill if half of it is in a language they don't understand? Being an agency, I'm sure there's no real problem either way, but my next job could (for example) be a Moldavian direct client who hasn't a word of French.

I'd really appreciate the advice of more experienced, more international translators.
Thanks for your help.
Sheila


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:56
Spanish to English
A suggestion Feb 13, 2008

Could you not make it bilingual as they do with forms in countries with more than one official language?

For example:
Nomme
Name


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:56
English to Dutch
+ ...
English Feb 13, 2008

I'm not saying I'm very experienced myself, but here's what I do.

I send out an invoice in Dutch to clients I communicate with in Dutch. All others get an invoice in English. Completely in English, not a word in Dutch, except for my logo and address etc.

I'm not sure what you mean by the tax declaration you have to use, but I'm assuming it is a certain amount of text you have to print on your invoice? My advice would be to translate it, and create a textbox with both the French text and the translation into English. Side by side, or one above the other. Then simply use that text box on all your invoices. Are you sure you have to do this for clients outside of France as well? VAT is not applicable anyway, is it?

O, and yes, I do translate the dates and everything else, and I even change the format. In Dutch, I write '13 februari 2008', in English I write 'February 13, 2008'.
So far, all my invoices have been paid... So I guess this system works!


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:56
Swedish to English
+ ...
Definitely bilingual Feb 13, 2008

Lesley Clarke wrote:

Could you not make it bilingual as they do with forms in countries with more than one official language?



If you want both the tax authority in France and the client in Sweden to understand your invoice this is the only answer.

Although English is not an "official language" in Sweden, it is widely understood and used (it's actually considered our 2nd language). French on the other hand, is "only" one of the standard options students have for language 3 or 4.

Were I to receive an invoice in French (whether residing in Sweden or the UK), I would most likely return it with a request for a translation (I would never pay an invoice I could not fully understand and my 2 years of struggling with French would not be enough for understanding accounting terms).

English is THE international langauge (sorry Academie Francais), just as French was some 300 years ago.

A bilingual invoice appears to be the best/only thing you have without upsetting someone (or not getting understood). In an ideal world, your invoice should of course be trilingual

[Edited at 2008-02-13 20:29]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
That's what I do, too Feb 13, 2008

Margreet Logmans wrote:

I send out an invoice in Dutch to clients I communicate with in Dutch. All others get an invoice in English. Completely in English, not a word in Dutch, except for my logo and address etc.




Replace "Dutch" with "German" and you have exactly what I do. Works fine so far...


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I make sure my clients can read the invoice Feb 13, 2008

It is of particular concern to me to make quite sure that I at least translate the bit "Payment due by" into their own language, and also write the date following it according to the convention in their country. They then have no excuse to pay late.

It is not the business of the tax authorities what language you write your invoices in.

Astrid


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:56
French to English
Bilingual Feb 13, 2008

Hi Sheila,

I would go with a bilingual invoice to make sure that the main lines are clear, such as Facture/Invoice, echéance/due date.

About your special VAT situation, definitely keep that in French with an short explanation. If I understand right, you have to put this because you are not subject to VAT, and international clients are supposed to check your VAT number validity, but as you don't have one, you need to explain this somehow.

I think you should keep a minimum of French in order to avoid any issues with the tax people, I'm not sure if it's a requirement, but somehow I think they would prefer documents in French This may also be important if you have any collection issues and need take some action with the Tribunal de Commerce.

In my import/export work experience, the vast majority of invoices are issued in whatever style and language is usual for the country the goods came from.

PS : invoices from China always confuse me as they write dates in a way that is very strange for me, I always have to think twice with those! So yes, putting dates in a format that the client would understand is a good idea



[Edited at 2008-02-13 23:38]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:56
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Bilingual Feb 13, 2008

And that works well - tested in practice. Under our country laws, all those papers shall be done in the state language. But the client will not understand then the invoice. So, make it in two langs at a go. Maybe invoces for the "local" clients can be done in the "local" language, and for foreigners into "foreign" language, but I think billingual is better (I tried the 2nd option too) - makes less confusion - can be understood by your foreign client, by your local client, by any accountant, etc.

[Edited at 2008-02-13 23:42]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 22:56
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
The priority is to get paid Feb 14, 2008

and what the tax man thinks about it, is secondary - you can always issue a more complete invoice if the customer asks for it. After all, nobody - including the tax man - wants to make it more difficult than necessary, just keep in mind you are the first one in the line-up for the money.

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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:56
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
I use three forms Feb 14, 2008

One in Finnish, one in German (where most of my clients reside) and one in English for the rest of the world, including France.
For a new client I choose the appropriate form and fill in the clients details. But most European agencies will have no problem with German invoices either, at least east of the Rhine-Maas.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:56
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Feb 14, 2008

Thanks to all of you for your contributions. I think I'll opt for a bilingual invoice to ensure I keep everyone happy.

As so many of you pointed out, the main thing is to be paid. For that, the payer needs to understand the bill. However, France has so many laws about what you can and can't do, and some French are very touchy about English having become the international language, so I'll keep the French text just so I don't fall foul of some grouchy civil servant.

One big advantage I can see to a bilingual invoice - it's more automatic and I can't c**k things up by sending the wrong one!

Thanks again
Sheila


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:56
Member
French to English
+ ...
VAT exoneration Feb 14, 2008

Dear Sheila,

I'm not sure that this will apply to you as you don't seem to charge VAT to any clients, but on all of my international invoices I have to add the following to keep the tax people happy:

Montant "Exonération TVA, art. 262 ter-1 du CGI"

International customers don't usually pay VAT, but this needs to be explicitly specified on the invoice (or so the accountant says).

Best,
Jocelyne


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Paul Adie  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Spanish to English
+ ...
Two templates. Feb 14, 2008

I just keep two templates, one in Spanish for Spanish speaking clients/countries, and one in English for everywhere else. Has worked fine upto now...I suppose in the near future I'll combine the two into one document, and add Russian too, but for now, this system works for me.

Happy Valentine's day!

Paul


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