Reader question: I am a tradesperson in France working mainly in the English-speaking community – can I write my bills and quotes in English?
You can, but you may have to pay for them to be translated at a later date.
The Franco-British Network, a not-for-profit organisation which helps individuals and businesses move to or set up a business in the Dordogne, advises that it is best to draw up paperwork related to your business in French.
This is because if you are audited, you will be expected to produce documents in French.
You can still send an invoice or quote in English, as long as you have a copy in French.
This is written into a 1989 tax law which says that if authorities request justification of information on a tax declaration, firms must produce accounts, inventories, copies of letters and records of outgoings and incomes. “If the bookkeeping is in a foreign language, a certified translation by a sworn translator must be produced at request of the administration.”
So the advice is: better to draw up your invoices and paperwork in French from the outset to avoid having to pay for translations at a later date.
The law stipulates what information must appear on an invoice. Whether sent to a private individual or a business a bill must include the date it is sent out; bill number; date of the sale of the product or service; the name and address of the buyer; the name and registration number of the company or business owner; the order number, if relevant; VAT number, if relevant, unless the amount is equal to or less than €150; product or service description; quantity and price for each item; catalogue price per hour or per item, less VAT; additional costs such as transport; VAT rate; any reductions in price; total sum to be paid; and due payment date.
If the invoice is destined for a business, it must also include the rate for late payment penalty and the €40 any business is allowed to add for its costs in recovering late payments.
You can be fined up to €15 for each bill with missing/ incorrect details, though this cannot be more than a quarter of the sum on the bill.