Invoicing in foreign languages

If you work with foreign customers, it may be beneficial to translate your invoices into another language. Not only does this show that you’re willing to go the extra mile for your clients, but it also helps your customers understand the invoice and the costs involved, therefore minimising the risk of confusion and misinterpretation.

Translate your invoices

But before you start invoicing in foreign languages, there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind, including the regulations on foreign-language invoices in your country, which bits of information you need to translate, and the best way to issue invoices in other languages.

This article explains what you need to consider if you choose to invoice in a foreign language and how SumUp Invoices can support you with this process. 

Regulations on invoicing in foreign languages 

Whenever you send an invoice, you need to ensure that they’re legally enforceable in the country your business is registered. Rules regarding invoicing in foreign languages vary from country to country, and not all countries allow you to send translated invoices. 

For example, in Australia, it’s required that all Australian businesses issue their invoices in English. Equally, for a Belgium-based business to legally invoice a customer, it must be written in Dutch. You must therefore check the legal requirements regarding invoices for your country. Don’t make assumptions.

Language regulations for UK invoices  

In the UK, businesses registered for VAT need to issue invoices that contain specific details about tax, including the rate and total amount due. They also need to be able to provide English translations of any invoice they send in another language if they’re asked to do so. If this happens, you have 30 days to provide the translation. 

For UK invoices, it doesn't matter which language you issue your invoice in. However, if you’re issuing a VAT invoice, you must be able to provide English translations of any invoice you've sent in another language if requested to do so by a VAT officer. If this happens, you have 30 days to provide the translation.

When is a translated invoice invalid?

If you issue an invoice that’s contrary to the language requirements of your country, it’s not valid. If an invoice isn’t valid, it makes it difficult to collect outstanding payments. When an issued invoice does not comply with your country’s language requirements, it means that collection of payment cannot be legally enforced until it’s replaced with an invoice that's regularly compiled. 

Importantly for UK businesses, invoicing in a language other than English doesn’t automatically invalidate your invoice. However, an English translation must be provided if requested.   

Invoicing basics in every language

Whichever language you invoice in, you should always make sure your invoice complies with legal regulations. To be considered a legal document, every invoice you send should contain the following information:

  • The word ‘Invoice’ (or the translation)

  • A unique invoice number

  • The date the invoice was issued

  • A due date

  • Your business name and contact details

  • Your customer’s business name and contact details

  • A description of the goods or services provided

  • The cost of each individual unit

  • The total amount due

  • Payment terms

  • VAT number and total amount of VAT due, if you’re registered for VAT 

As with any other invoice, you should also make sure that you keep your foreign-language invoices for a minimum of six years.

Benefits of translating your invoices

If you’re a UK business that operates internationally, it may be necessary to issue an invoice in a foreign language. 

By invoicing in the local language of your customer, you may improve the communication between the two parties and show that your business is customer-focused. Provided your translation is accurate, you’ll reduce the likelihood of a misunderstanding and it could lead to timelier payments. 

How to translate your invoices 

In the UK, since the law allows you to issue invoices in a foreign language, you need to make sure that they’re accurately translated. 

Often, invoicing software will automatically translate your invoices for you, meaning you don’t have to worry if you've misrepresented any field or used a country-specific term incorrectly. If, for example, you’re invoicing a customer in Spain, changing the invoice language will also change ‘VAT’ into the Spanish equivalent, ‘IVA’. 

If you don’t use invoicing software, you’ll need to translate your Word or Excel invoice template yourself. It’s therefore best that you ask a native speaker to check your translation before sending the invoice. 

Invoice in a foreign language with invoicing software

If you use SumUp Invoices, you can create your invoices in foreign languages with just a few simple clicks. Simply select ‘New Invoice’, fill in the invoice details as normal, and then expand ‘Options’. On the right, you’ll be able to select which language you wish to translate your invoice to. 

SumUp Invoices allows you to create your invoices in 18 different languages. By using this invoicing software, you can be certain that the mandatory invoice fields are correctly labelled as all translations are automatically applied. It’s as easy as that. 

Translate your invoices