As a small business owner, you need to keep track of how much money is coming in and how much money is going out. The collection and creation of invoices is a key way to achieve this. Thus you need to know how to invoice.
In this guide, we will look at why, in most cases, legally, you must provide invoices to your customers and how you go about creating one. We will also look at when and how you want to get paid.
An invoice is a time-imprinted business document that itemises and records a transaction between a seller and a buyer. If the goods or services were purchased on credit, the invoice usually specifies the terms of the deal and provides information on the available methods of payment.
WHY should I invoice my customers?
If your business turnover exceeds $75,000, you must register for and pay GST. See our guide on GST. When you make a sale of $82.50 or more, including GST, you must issue an invoice.
If your business has a turnover of less than $75,000, your customers may demand an invoice, and even if they don’t, it is simply good business practice. We have written a comprehensive guide on Record Keeping.
Legally you must keep a copy of your invoices for 5 years. This can be a paper copy or electronic. These copies will help you fill out your BAS.
If a customer requests an invoice, you must provide it in under 28 days.
WHAT terms should I offer my customers?
Before we look at the invoice itself, a very important decision needs to be made about whether you will offer your customers any credit. This is when you expect to get paid for the goods or services that you are providing. Options include:
- Deposit – You require a percentage of the total upfront to start work
- Cash on delivery – full payment is made at the time of delivery of the product
- Payment on completion of work – full payment is made at the time of completing a service
- Progress payments – a schedule of payments normally with milestones are set through the project
- Credit terms – the customer is given a set number of days to pay
- Discount for early payment – You offer an incentive or discount to pay an invoice early, like a 5% discount if they pay within 7 days
Ideally, you get paid early or at the time of delivery, however, many businesses will not accept that if you want to do business with them. Unfortunately, some companies have conditions whereby you have to accept terms of up to 120 days if you want their business. This is robbery, and the norm would be 30 days. The longer a business takes to pay you helps their balance sheet, the quicker you get paid helps your balance sheet.
You will also need to decide what payment methods you will accept. A bank transfer will be the most attractive as it will not attract fees, you don’t have to handle cash, and the money should move to your account within 24 hours. Cash will require you to visit the bank. If you decide to accept a credit card or Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL – for example PayPal), you will get the money straight away, but you will have to pay a merchant fee in the form of a percentage of the transaction. This payment form is convenient for the customer and will get the money to you fast.
Whatever form of payment or payment terms you decide to use, you will need to consider when building your cost model.
HOW to invoice
By far, the easiest way to produce an invoice is through an accounting package. If you create one manually, this can easily be done using a spreadsheet or word processing application. You will find many templates available in those applications, as well as downloadable templates from the internet.
In Australia, an invoice must include:
- the heading “tax invoice”
- Your business or trading name
- your Australian business number (ABN)
- date of the invoice
- a description of the items sold, including the units (hours or goods) and price
- the GST amount– this can be shown separately or, if the GST amount is exactly one-eleventh of the total price, a statement which states ‘Total price includes GST’ (only applies if you are liable for GST)
- If the invoice is over $1,000, including GST, you must also include the buyers’ identity or ABN
Freds Shop 17 Fake St
ABN: 32 123 456 789 Your Town State Postcode
Date: 25 March 2021
To: Valuable customer
56 Down Rd
Town State Postcode
Description Quantity Total
Widgets 1 $40.00
Labour 2hrs $80.00
Total Price including GST $132
Now you have created your invoice, you need to send it to your customer, with the most common form these days being via email. Ensure you have the right contact, and it is also worth copying it to a company’s accounts payable team. You can, of course, hand-deliver or post.
If your customers do not pay your invoices, read more about your options in our guide on bad debts.
The tax office provides guides on requirements for tax invoices here.
SUMMARY – How to Invoice
Accurate invoicing will help you keep your business in check and the ATO happy. An invoice can be easily created. You can use an accounting package to help with the greater task of managing to invoice and your accounts. If your turnover exceeds $75,000, you must provide invoices that specify GST. Invoices are not required for amounts less than $82.50, including GST.