Freelancers' Questions: Should I agree to change my invoice?

Freelancer’s Question: I've just completed a fourth, stand-alone contract for a company and submitted my invoice, which ties in with the original contract.

I'm in a very tricky situation though. I've been asked to amend my invoice to put ‘time-worked’ under different headings to the work actually completed. The work I have done is backed up by a timesheet and is all factually correct.

I don't want to change the invoice and have suggested to the client that I won't do so. So how should I word my actual reply to their request to change my invoice? I don't want to lose future work, or accuse the client representative of false accounting. I just want my invoice paid as it is!

Expert’s Answer: It is a somewhat strange situation that you find yourself in, given the importance that a humble invoice holds in any contractual agreement.

In our view, if the invoice details are correct and accurately reflect the work done we can not fathom any legitimate reason for a client to request any changes. As credit control professionals, to us the very suggestion you have received is anathema to accepted best-practices and should be treated with extreme caution.

In our experience, if a client asks for an invoice to be changed after it has been duly issued, say, for example re-invoice to a different company, we would consider this to be an indication that the client intends to attempt to delay or avoid payment. This is because changing an invoice is an old trick often used by unscrupulous businesses to muddy a legitimate claim and weaken the chances of successfully pursuing an unpaid balance through the courts.

As this client has accepted your invoices without alteration in the past we would concur with you that you should not, under any circumstance, alter the invoice now, or without further evidence/details.

Provided your contract does not expressly forbid it, we wonder; do you have any friendly contacts within the company you can raise this issue with? If so we would suggest a call to them to try and establish the reason behind the request. Failing that it may be worth contacting the person who made the request to ascertain the answer to this question of the need to amend the invoice.

We would ordinarily advise that all correspondence be written, but when dealing with any invoice query picking up the phone is normally the fastest route to resolution. If you do decide to call, always follow up by email to confirm the substance and outcome of the call.

If your only option is email simply stick to the facts – namely, that the invoice is correct; backed up by authorised time sheets and you are unable to alter the content. It's probably advisable to avoid making any assumptions on the reasoning behind the request or on the fiscal responsibility of the client.

If all else fails, feel free to tell this client that you employ us here at Safe Collections on a consultancy or retainer basis and that we have categorically advised against you from making any alteration on the invoice.

But please note: if you begin to suspect that payment may not be forthcoming it will be better in the long run to revert solely to email, as this correspondence may be vital if court action is needed.

Tread lightly and good luck!

The expert was Sid Home, managing director of debt recovery specialist Safe Collections.

 

2nd May 2012

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