There are strict, but thankfully very simple, rules for what needs to appear on a VAT invoice in the UK.
To satisfy HMRC you need to include on your invoice:
The date of issue of the invoice.
A sequential number that uniquely identifies the invoice.
Your business’s name, address and VAT registration number.
The name and address of your customer.
Your customer’s VAT registration number (only if they’re VAT registered in another EU country and you’re invoicing without VAT).
The date of supply of services (the date you did the work).
A description of the services supplied (from a VAT point of view ‘Courier work’ would be OK – your customer may want more detail).
The VAT rate applied (normally 17.5%).
Total amount of VAT payable.
The total amount payable for the whole invoice excluding VAT.
The total amount of VAT charged at each VAT rate (normally just one entry for the 17.5% rate).
The unit price of the services supplied and the number of units charged for – if this is normal practice for your industry (as far as I’m aware it isn’t normal practice in the courier industry) or required by your customer. In practice you can ignore this unless you charge your customer by an agreed price per mile or hour worked AND they’ve asked you to include the figure on your invoice. For example ‘200 miles @ 70p/plm’.
To satisfy Companies House and Trading Standards:
If your business trades under a name other that its actual name then you must include the actual name on your invoice, as well as the trading name.
If you’re a sole trader John Smith and you trade as ‘John Smith’, ‘J Smith’ or just ‘Smith’ then that is the only name that needs to appear on your invoice.
If you’re a partnership of John Smith and Alan Jones, and trade under any combination of the names (‘Smith & Jones’, ‘J Smith & Alan Jones’ etc) then those are the only details needed.
If your business is a limited company and it trades under its own name ‘S&J Courier Services Ltd’, then that’s the only name that needs to appear on your invoices.
In any other case, where the business trades under a name that is not its actual name, the full actual name of the legal entity behind the trading name must be shown on all invoices. So if John Smith trades as ‘John Smith Couriers’, or John Smith and Alan Jones trade as ‘J&A Couriers’, or even if S&J Courier Services Ltd trade as ‘S&J Courier Services’, then the actual name of the sole-trader, the partners or the limited company must be shown on the invoice.
To keep you customer happy
The date you did the job.
The collection and delivery details – I prefer the format ‘XYZ Semiconductors, London E14 – ABC Computers, Manchester M30’.
Any reference if you’ve been given one by the customer – otherwise use the name of the person who booked the job.
Any purchase order number supplied by the customer – if it’s the first job you’ve done for them it doesn’t hurt to ring them and ask them what they need to appear on the invoice.
The POD for the job – often not essential with end-users but other transport companies like to get their PODs. Also attach the original hard copy POD to your invoice, KEEP A COPY FOR YOUR OWN RECORDS THOUGH.
Your bank details. – Most companies pay by BACS or internet banking these days. Make the payment process as simple as you can for them and avoid any excuses for late payment.
Invoice promptly – if it’s a one-off job then don’t leave it until the end of the month, do it now.
Invoice accurately – only invoice for the agreed amount. if there are any additions for waiting time, call-outs etc then agree the charges with the customer at the time that the cost is incurred.
Don’t backdate your invoice. If you don’t get round to sending your invoices until the middle of the month then don’t date them at the end of the previous month. Large companies may not notice and you’ll be paid as and when your invoice is cleared, small companies may get annoyed at being presented with an invoice due for payment within a few days of receipt.
To avoid any problems in the future
Spell out your payment terms and the due date on the invoice.
Explain the methods of paying the invoice – “Cheques should be made payable to XYZ Couriers…etc” “BACS payments may be made to Account no……etc”
Don’t mention unreasonable and un-agreed penalties for late payment on your invoice.
Draw the customer’s attention to the Late Payment legislation – “WE UNDERSTAND AND WILL EXERCISE OUR STATUTORY RIGHT TO INTEREST AND COMPENSATION FOR DEBT RECOVERY COSTS UNDER THE LATE PAYMENT LEGISLATION IF WE ARE NOT PAID ACCORDING TO OUR CREDIT TERMS.”
Draw the customer’s attention to your Conditions of Carriage, Conditions of Trading, Terms & Conditions, or whatever “ALL BUSINESS UNDERTAKEN IS SUBJECT TO OUR CONDITIONS OF TRADING – A COPY OF WHICH IS AVAILABLE ON REQUEST – or go to www.quietlyefficientcouriers.co.uk/conditions.pdf” This won’t automatically mean that the job you’re invoicing on this occasion will be covered by those conditions, you should have agreed that in advance, but it will help you show that your Conditions apply to any future work you carry out for the customer.