When I send an invoice to a client, what should I put on it, apart from the obvious amount? If, for example, I do not have a registered company, should I just put my name on it?
Are there any templates available for invoices?
Since the requirements for an invoice are very country-specific, I'll give a general answer on how to get these data.
You need to get to the site of your government. If your country has an organization for business & self employed with a separate website, go there. For example, for UK residents, there would be gov.uk, clicking further gives gov.uk/browse/business. Search for 'invoice'. On the UK website, this leads to this page, which gives a clear overview of the requirements of an invoice.
You must clearly display the word ‘invoice’ on the document. You must also include:
- a unique identification number
- your company name, address and contact information
- the company name and address of the customer you are invoicing
- a clear description of what you are charging for
- the date the goods or service were provided (supply date)
- the date of the invoice
- the amount(s) being charged
- VAT amount if applicable
- the total amount owed
If your company is a registered limited company, you must also include:
- your company registration number
- the address of your company’s registered office
This list is very basic. It will be the same for most countries, with just a few minor changes. However, to be sure, find the website of your government and look it up. There might or might not be different rules when trading with companies abroad, and whether or not different rules apply depends on the other country in most cases. Try to find the information on the website of your government. If you cannot find it, contact them. It's important that you are sure about it.
It is not a good idea to keep this information on this website, because it might change and can have considerable impacts.
The minimal material you should put on the invoice regardless of local laws (check with established businesses in your area or lawyers, or specialists, or what have you for more) are:
Clear description of the parties. Your business name, address, and contact information should be clear. The individual or business you are charging should similarly have all relevant contact information as well. This establishes a record of who you sent it to and where to remit payment, as well as who to contact if there are questions or errors (which does happen).
Clearly state that this is an invoice. Rules vary from place to place on this but usually words like INVOICE clearly displayed or equivalents in local languages (In Indonesia 'Surat Faktur' which means literally 'Invoice document' or 'invoice letter').
Any information you need to include for tax or registration purposes. In the EU this will include your VAT number if applicable. UK limited companies must put their company number on the invoice.
Items, quantities, and amounts (per line, of each tax of each payment, etc, along with subtotals and totals). Any payments already applied.
Terms of payment and return. This is most frequently left off but it establishes a record of what you expect.
Local rules. For example last time I helped someone in Greece with invoicing, they could only print invoices on serially numbered paper obtained from the tax office (similar to 1099's in the US). Some countries also require that all invoices are numbered sequentially with no gaps.
In the US I have seen many invoices without unique identification numbers, but it is really good practice to have it even if not required.
As for templates, it depends on what format you want.
And there are many more. Google is your friend.
One thing we are working on in LedgerSMB (may not be ready for some time as we have other priorities too) is to create a series of LaTeX document classes and packages for producing invoices to make it easier for people to write invoices in that environment. LedgerSMB also comes with LedgerSMB templates for invoices (HTML/Template Toolkit and LaTeX/Template Toolkit) and many other documents currently but we would like to make it so that most of the logic is available outside of our platform as well.
I have been self-employed for 9 years, much of which has been in the area of ERP and accounting software for clients all over the world.
The above gives you a very simple baseline. Also note that within the EU, there are often different rules for trading within Eurozone countries. For example, you may not need to give your VAT number to a customer in the US since they aren't charging VAT. However, generally for the sake of avoiding problems, usually folks add all locally relevant information to all invoices.
Finally keep in mind what an invoice is. An invoice is a representation that "I have filled my part of the contract and so now I am saying I have earned this much money from you." If you have prepayments of course those are applied. Otherwise it is a notice saying "you owe me money." All relevant information relating to collecting that money needs to be on the invoice. Additionally local rules are usually tax-related so keep in mind that tax authorities like to be able to track invoices too.
In Poland, you must register company to issue an invoice.
The required fields are:
Any invoice without those fields is invalid, in Poland.
If you are sending invoices, I would register a business name. In the USA is costs about $50 to register a LLC. I am not sure about other countries but usually there are some kind of tax benefits from having a registered company. Here is what I would say are the necessary items on an invoice.