An invoice is a billing document for a single transaction and contains an itemized list of goods or services purchased in that transaction. A statement is a listing of all the invoices issued on a particular customer's account for a particular period - usually one month
An invoice is a legal document which can be used as evidence of an incurred debt. The recipient of the goods or services can challenge the legitimacy of individual charges, but the invoice itself is considered a bona fide debt. Sometimes a vendor or serviceman cannot collect on a bill immediately, so their company will send an invoice at a later date for payment. The actual daily expense of a service may be so low that a company will simply wait for a larger invoice to cover all of the costs at once. Vending machine attendants and bottled water providers may only send one invoice a month instead of billing the company a few dollars a day for supplies.
Not all invoices are bills of sale, however. A manufacturer may send out a 'shipping invoice', which details all of the parts and accessories included in a particular order. This shipping invoice should be compared to the actual parts received by the store or customer. Car dealers also receive an invoice from the factory which details the actual price of the basic vehicle and any optional equipment installed. The dealer may offer a discount to the customer which seems to fall below the invoice price.
The use of an invoice as evidence of a legitimate debt can sometimes be abused. Unscrupulous companies may generate false invoices to account for missing funds or to inflate sales numbers to stockholders. An invoice is only enforceable and legal if corroborative evidence (inventory, duplicate bills, etc.) proves the goods actually exist or the service was actually performed. Companies and individuals do have the right to challenge suspicious invoices in a court of law.
Some companies who use invoices frequently will design their own forms, but generic invoice forms can be ordered at office supply stores. There are also computer programs available which can generate specialized invoice forms through the use of templates. A professional invoice should contain detailed information on the goods or services, clear and accurate prices and current contact information for any billing questions a client may have.
The usual sections in an invoice include:
- The word invoice
- A unique reference number
- Date of the invoice
- Names and addresses of customer and supplier
- Tax or company registration details of seller
- Name and contact details of the buyer
- Date that the product was sent or delivered
- Purchase order number
- Description of the products
- Unit prices of the products
- Total amount charged with breakdown of taxes
- Payment terms including method of payment, date of payment