Guest post: Credit notes – Part 1/2

Hi, dear followers! Having an awful day on this side of the computer. Hope yours is/was better.

Today’s guest post, by Nancy Matis, is split in two parts. You’ll read the first today and the second next Tuesday.

Welcome, Nancy!


Credit notes for translation projects

Translation companies, translators or any other participant in a translation project might find that they have to issue credit notes. Most of the time, credit notes are associated with quality complaints, but many other reasons might prompt a client to ask for one.

In this article, I will briefly go through the information this type of document contains, explore the reasons why credit notes are requested and explain how to avoid them.

  1. What is a credit note?

A credit note is a document produced by a subcontractor stating that a certain amount has to be credited to the client. This amount can equal a previously issued invoice, part of an invoice or even the sum of several invoices. It will be repaid to the client or deducted from future payments by the latter.

  1. What information is compulsory on a credit note?

The content of a credit note is very similar to that of an invoice. It should always include the following information:

  • Contact information of the client and the subcontractor
  • VAT registration number of both of them if VAT applies in their country and if they are VAT registered
  • Financial data of the subcontractor
  • Credit note number
  • Issue date
  • Amount to be credited
  • VAT percentage applicable
  • Grand total of the credit note, VAT included
  1. What other information might be added to a credit note?

The due date and the client’s financial details are actually optional, but they can obviously be included.

The identification number of the related invoice(s) as well as the reason(s) for generating this document can also be mentioned.

Depending on the client or the subcontractor, other information could be added, such as the name and number of the translation project(s) to be credited, the project manager’s name, the requester’s details and so on.

In all cases, the “CREDIT NOTE” terms should clearly state the nature of this legal document, so that it cannot be confused with a new invoice.

  1. Reasons to issue a credit note

a. Translation quality problems

Sometimes clients require a credit note when they are not happy with the quality of a translated text. Before agreeing to issue such a document, the translator or the translation agency should receive accurate feedback or take a very close look at the final target text sent back by the client to assess the scale of the problem.

Judging the quality level of a translation is often subjective. Therefore, before acknowledging a quality problem, you should make sure that unquestionable mistakes are present, such as typos or failures to comply with glossaries, style guides or any instructions provided by the client.

After some discussion, the client will hopefully drop the credit note request or at least agree to decrease the required amount to be credited, for instance from 50% of the job budget to 15%.

b. Other project problems reported by the client

Credit notes might also relate to complaints linked to production tasks other than pure translation, for example the desktop publishing of some target files, the testing and debugging of the localised software, the rebuilding of Flash animations or even the creation of a multilingual website. If the client estimates that the final result is not worth the amount initially quoted or invoiced, he might insist on getting a credit note for a specific value.

Some dissatisfaction could also relate to project management tasks, for instance failing to deliver a translation project on time. Missing a specific deadline could be highly detrimental to a client, who will demand compensation from the provider.

c. Mistakes in some compulsory data

If some key data on the invoice are not correct, such as the company address or VAT number, the client will ask the subcontractor to issue a credit note stating the same “wrong” data and to create a brand new invoice showing the correct information. Imagine a Translation Project Manager (TPM) providing localisation services to a client contact based in a subsidiary of an international company and addressing his invoice to this local office. When the client’s accountant starts paying the invoices, he suddenly realises that this specific invoice was meant for head office. He will consequently require a credit note to cancel the first invoice in his accounts. Similar cases could also occur due to company mergers.

Regarding other erroneous data that could appear on an invoice, some clients will demand a credit note while others will simply change the data themselves or even register the invoice containing the mistake. The final amount stated on the invoice might not exactly match the price the client was expecting, but he pays it anyway, especially when it is lower than planned.

d. Non-compulsory information errors

The internal policy of some companies, whether they are end-clients or translation agencies, dictates certain guidelines for the content of the invoices to be received. Failing to follow them could lead to a request for a credit note.

Let’s imagine you work for three project managers (PM) within the same translation agency and, at the end of the month, you issue one single invoice including all your jobs. Depending of their internal approval policy, some agencies prefer to receive one invoice per PM. In this case, you would have to send a credit note cancelling the first invoice and reissue three new invoices, each listing the work delivered to the different PMs.

Similarly, many clients use Purchase Order (PO) numbers for translation jobs. Forgetting to include those numbers or referencing the wrong ones on invoices might prompt them to ask for a credit note.

A subcontractor might also mistakenly invoice one job twice. If he included several translation jobs on his invoice, the client will either require a credit note only for the amount of the duplicate job, or opt for a credit note covering the whole invoice and ask the subcontractor to reissue the complete correct invoice.

Read Part 2

Thanks, Nancy, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write such a great contribution to our blog!

Stay tuned for the second part next week, where Nancy also provides an example of a credit note for translation projects.

About the author
26e705fNancy Matis is the author of the book “How to manage your translation projects”, originally published in French and recently translated by her partner company in the UK. Nancy has been involved in the translation business for around 20 years, working as a translator, reviser, technical specialist, project manager and teacher, among other roles. She currently manages her own company based in Belgium, specialising in localisation, translation project management, consulting and training. She teaches at numerous universities across Europe and has published several articles about translation project management. During these past few years, she has also been involved in some European projects, designing and evaluating training materials for future translators and project managers.

6 thoughts on “Guest post: Credit notes – Part 1/2

  1. That is a very good topic to write about, Nancy. Many people don’t know what a credit note is or how to write one. I was one of them until recently, when we had to cancel and re-issue some invoices (due to wrong data), but luckily our accountant explained everything.


  2. Dear Alina,
    Many thanks for your kind comment :-).
    I’ve indeed experienced cases where some project managers didn’t know how to deal with a credit note request or where some translation teams or freelancers didn’t really understand what was expected from them. Thanks to Caroline’s invitation, I’ve finally taken some time to write down all I could think about regarding credit notes LOL. Let’s hope it will help some people!! 😉


  3. Pingback: Guest post: Credit notes – Part 2/2 | Carol's Adventures in Translation

  4. Hi Caroline,
    I’ve just had a case linked to this subject and thought it might make sense to add the information here.
    Recently, I overpaid an invoice of one of my subcontractors. I paid 940 EUR instead of 640 EUR.
    The lady kindly informed me that I paid too much :-). And proposed me to send a credit note.
    I simply wanted to underline that in this case, credit notes are not needed.
    Indeed, it’s simply a matter of over-payment, NOT a problem on an invoice previously issued.
    Therefore, I’ll deduce those extra 300 EUR from the next payment and that will be it.
    Alternatively, she might have reimbursed me those 300 EUR, but again, no credit note would be needed to justify this.


  5. Hi again Caroline,
    Another case that I’d like to share with you.
    One of my providers sent me a credit note for a PO that had been invoiced twice. They issued a credit note for an amount of -951 EUR, adding as shown here the minus sign before the amount. The fact is that a credit note already relates to an amount to be deducted from a future payment or reimbursed. Using a negative amount on a credit note is therefore not correct – the term “Credit note” on the document already indicates the negative nature of this amount.

    Liked by 1 person

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