How to draw up invoices as a self-employed person (or microbusiness) in France

Invoicing
Invoicing

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  1. Introduktion
  2. What function do invoices serve for the self-employed?
  3. When is invoicing mandatory for the self-employed?
  4. What are the invoicing rules for the self-employed?
  5. What information is mandatory?
    1. Specific information
    2. Fines
  6. Where can I find an invoice template for the self-employed?

An invoice is a business document, issued by a professional, that confirms the sale of products or services to a customer. Like a quote, it sets out the terms of sale and the amount to be paid, and it is required for any transaction between professionals (learn more about self-employed quotes). So how do you create your invoices as a self-employed person? How do you decide which information to include? This article will focus on the specific details of invoicing for the self-employed and microbusinesses, including any mandatory information and free invoice templates.

What’s in this article?

  • What function do invoices serve for the self-employed?
  • When is invoicing mandatory for the self-employed?
  • What are the invoicing rules for the self-employed?
  • What information is mandatory?
  • Where can I find an invoice template for the self-employed?

What function do invoices serve for the self-employed?

The invoice has three main roles. From a legal perspective, it serves as evidence of a sale in the event of a dispute or nonpayment on the customer’s part. It is also a supporting document for accounting purposes, which can allow microbusinesses to compile their annual accounts. Last, in the event of any checks by the tax office, invoices provide concrete evidence of the financial transaction concerned and substantiate the revenue and value-added tax (VAT) declared by the self-employed person for each accounting period. Because of this, it is key to understand the invoicing obligations that apply to the self-employed.

When is invoicing mandatory for the self-employed?

Invoices are mandatory for transactions between two professionals (i.e., when you provide a service or sell a product to another self-employed person, a business, an association, or a public service). They must be issued once the sale has been made or you have finished providing your service.

By contrast, invoicing is not always required in the event of a sale to an individual person, except in the following cases: distance or online sales, deliveries made to public auctions (of used goods, works of art, collectibles, or antiques), deliveries within the EU not subject to VAT, or real estate projects. Invoices are also mandatory when the price for provision of a service is greater than or equal to 25 euros, including any taxes (inclusive), or when the individual customer asks for an invoice.

What are the invoicing rules for the self-employed?

Like any business, the self-employed must observe certain invoicing obligations. Invoices must be drafted in French and have a duplicate, so both parties can have evidence of the transaction. According to the French Commercial Code, invoices must—without exception—be numbered in chronological order and retained by the self-employed person for 10 years. Last, in order for invoices to be valid, they must contain certain mandatory information as listed below.

What information is mandatory?

The first piece of information to include in your document is the mention of “invoice” or “statement of fees” if you offer professional services. Then you need to number the invoice as well as the individual pages of the document (if you have more than one).

The issue date for the invoice, the date of sale, and the payment deadline must feature on your invoices when you’re self-employed. Note that the date of sale for a product is the actual day of delivery, while the date of service provision is the final day that work was performed.

In addition, you must—without exception—state your details and those of your customer: your name and DBA, the words “entreprise individuelle” or “EI,” your business address (or home address if you operate from home), your customer’s name, their company name, and also their address for invoicing purposes.

You also need to state your Siren number, the register with which you are listed—i.e., the “registre du commerce et des sociétés” number (Trade and Companies Register, abbreviated to RCS) in the case of retailers and the “répertoire des métiers” number (Trades Directory, abbreviated to RM) in the case of tradespeople—and the town/city or the number of the department in France where your microbusiness is registered. Please also note that you should wait until you receive your Siren number before you start creating invoices. If you and your customer are liable for VAT, you will need to provide the relevant VAT numbers.

Your invoices must contain a detailed description of the products sold or services provided. Generally speaking, you need to add a line for each item. Start your description by providing details of the product or service provided (the nature, brand, reference number for the product, the materials supplied, labor, etc.). Then draw up a detailed breakdown showing the quantity, unit, and unit price for each item before tax (net) or the time taken in the case of services. State the delivery or transport fees or even the discounted price (if applicable), the overall net total, as well as the rate and amount of any VAT and the total amount including taxes (inclusive) as applicable. If your microbusiness is not liable for VAT, state “VAT not applicable, article 293 B of the French General Tax Code”.

Please note that if products and services are subject to VAT at different rates, state the rate of VAT that applies to each item invoiced.

Specific information

If you undertake a transaction with a foreign customer, you need to include your EU VAT number in your invoice (as well as your customer’s VAT number). It is also advisable to state your professional indemnity insurance number and any penalties for late payment (as applicable).

The purchase order number and the words “reverse charge” (in relation to VAT),
“eco-contribution fee for WEEE” (in relation to waste electrical and electronic equipment), and “member of an authorized association, payment by check and bank card is accepted” must also appear if they apply to you.

Last, if you are selling electrical, photographic, telephone, DIY, or gardening equipment, you need to refer to the statutory warranty. This also applies to computer equipment, toys and games, sports equipment, clocks and watches, sunglasses, lighting, and items of furniture.

Fines

It is important to ensure your invoices comply with the obligations imposed by the French government: if any invoices between professionals are missing or a fictitious invoice is created, you may have to pay a fine of 75,000 euros. You will also have to pay 15 euros if anything is inaccurate or missing from your invoices.

Where can I find an invoice template for the self-employed?

URSSAF, France’s collection office for social security contributions, has a free invoice template for the self-employed on its website. You can also refer to the sample invoice (for all businesses) provided by the French government.

Additionally, you can simplify your entire invoicing system with the help of versatile tools such as Stripe Invoicing, an integrated solution that optimizes invoice creation, automates revenue recognition, and speeds up the settlement of invoices (most Stripe invoices are paid within three days), with no need to write any code. To find out how Stripe can help you manage your invoicing end-to-end, contact one of our experts today.

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