Always check the detail on your invoices

In some instances late payment of commercial invoices may come about as a result of debtors simply not responding to calls for late payment. Either they fail to return emails or they fail to return phone calls or both. These are unethical people.

In other cases debtors may roll out an excuse (see our list of commonly used explanations here).

One such approach is to wait until an invoice is nearly due then return it to the supplier highlighting an error and asking for it to be amended and resubmitted. The process of resubmission consequently resulting in a reset of the payment terms. This could be especially harmful if the payment terms are 90 days.

Whether or not you (the supplier) know this is going to happen, it just makes sense to check the details on all your invoices before they go out. Depending on the nature of the error, customers may have a legitimate reason for refusing to pay invoices. Equally they may not have studied the invoice until the time comes to actually process it for payment, i.e. towards the end of the credit term or at the time of the billing run.

If a purchase order number is accidentally omitted or bank details are left off, these items may not be checked until the invoice goes through processing at the customer’s end. Depending on how far out from the end of month billing run, the time taken to amend and resubmit the invoice with the correct information needed for processing could mean that the customer’s billing run is completed before receipt of the corrected invoice, hence the need for re-set payment terms as it will have to go into the next billing run.

This could happen as purely a matter of process and unfortunate timing / circumstance or it could indeed be something more unethical. Regardless the supplier can minimise the chances of this kind of thing happening by finding out exactly what needs to be on the invoice and making sure there are no errors.