How to write a French invoice

By Valérie Aston on 14 June 2021 · Viewed 521 times · Questions

You’ve registered your business, got your SIRET number and are now ready to start working and to invoice your customers. But what should you be adding on your invoices? This article gives you an overview of the key regulations and compulsory mentions to add on French invoices. You can also download an invoice template.

Is it compulsory to make an invoice in France?

Working with professionals - B2B

Anyone freelancing with another professional must produce an invoice. Even auto-entrepreneurs, who benefit from simplified accountancy rules have to produce an invoice when working with professionals.

Working with individuals - B2C

The obligation to issue an invoice does not apply to professionals who deliver goods or provide services to individuals - except for distance sales (online and mail order) and for certain deliveries at public auctions. But there is nothing to prevent an invoice from being established at the initiative of the seller or at the request of the individual.

In the absence of an invoice, a note called “Reçu” must be issued for:

  • Any work on properties - building work, equipment, repair work.
  • Services equal to or greater than 25€ including tax.

The delivery of this note is optional if a detailed estimate was issued and accepted by the customer. This “reçu” must include the names and addresses of both parties, the date and place the service was delivered, the quantity and price for each service or product, the total to be paid excluding taxes and included VAT. The receipt has to be issued in duplicate and the original given to the customer at the latest when paying the balance of the price.

What are the compulsory mentions on a French invoice?

Invoices issued to a professional must include the following mandatory information:

  • Your name, trading name if any and address, as well as RM for artisans and RCS for commerçant. RM stands for the registration with Chambre de Metiers, while RCS stands for registration with Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés. For instance Matteo Lelong, SOS Plombier, address, 123 123 123 00017 RM Coutances.
  • For incorporated business, corporate name, legal structure, working capital and RCS you relate to. For instance SARL XYZ au capital de 2,000€, 123 123 123 00018 RCS Lyon.
  • For artisans reference of your liability insurance “assurance responsabilité civile professionnelle”.
  • Your TVA number if you are VAT registered.
  • Customer’s name, trading name if any and address.
  • Invoice number, which must be a unique number in a chronological and continuous sequence,
  • Date the invoice is issued.
  • Date of sale or provision of services (if different from the date of issue).
  • For each good delivered or service rendered, the quantity, precise name and the unit price excluding tax and all discount.
  • Applicable TVA rate or, where applicable, the legal mention explaining the TVA exemption.
  • Amount of TVA payable.
  • Mention “Auto-liquidation" for transactions benefiting from this regime (i.e. services provided B2B to other European countries, when the customer clears the local TVA rate in his/he country).
  • Date on which payment is due.
  • Discount conditions applicable in the event of early payment.
  • Late penalty rate.
  • Amount of lump sum compensation for recovery costs called “pénalités de retard”.

Read the official list of legal mentions on French invoice here.

Which format to use for your French invoice?

An invoice can be generated in paper format or in electronic format. It must be issued to the buyer, even if the latter does not request it. The invoice management can be done directly on a paper format called facturier, on a spreadsheet, word processor or a using a billing software.

How long do you need to keep your French invoices for?

The seller and the buyer must each keep a copy of the invoice for a period of at least 3 years from the sale or the provision of services. However, fiscally, the deadline is 6 years. In practice, it is even recommended to keep them for at least 10 years.

Can you write a French invoice in a different currency?

A company based in France can issue an invoice in a currency other than the euro, in dollars or in pounds sterling for example. Foreign currency must be internationally recognised and be mutable. The applicable euro exchange rate must be mentioned on the invoice.

However, the invoice integrated into your bookkeeping has to be made in euros. You can use for instance the monthly exchange rate from Banque de France.

French invoice template

You can download my French invoice template here to see what a French invoice looks like. You can also find some free re-useable invoice templates online or use some accountancy software.

In conclusion, the issue of an invoice is mandatory between professionals and a receipt is compulsory above 25€ for individuals. An invoice must contain many compulsory information and be kept for at least 10 years. Failure to invoice, omissions or inaccuracies that may be noted in the invoices can lead to heavy penalties.

More information on French invoices

How to write a French invoice

Valerie Lemiere: Start Business in France

About the author: Valérie Aston

I've been helping people who want to start or already have a small business set up in France since 2009. After graduating from a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, I worked as a senior marketing consultant in the UK and France for various International companies. I worked as a conseillère en création d'entreprises (senior business advisor) for BGE here in France and run this independent business on a daily basis.