Can I issue an invoice in a different language?
Chances are, at some point, one or other of your clients has asked if you can issue their invoice in a different language. Are you allowed to do that and how should you respond? Here’s a roundup of the current rules.
If your enterprise has its trading address in a region where Dutch is the primary language, the law states that all your business documents, including invoices, must be written in Dutch. If you do not comply with this rule, the invoice will be invalid.
In practice, it’s not always feasible to follow the above rule, and the law was extended accordingly by the Decree of 7 July 2017, which includes various provisions relating to the Work and Social Economy policy area.
Since this Decree came into force, an enterprise may issue a second copy of its invoices in a different language, providing the following conditions are met:
- +The invoice must be drawn up in a language that is understood by both parties;
- +The recipient must be located in a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA).
Any official language recognised in the European Union or official language of a member state of the EEA may be used.
An invoice that meets these conditions is considered to be legally valid. It is important to note that you are still required to draw up the initial invoice in the primary language of the region where the enterprise has its trading address. An invoice in another language is always a supplementary document.
Enterprises in Belgium
If the issuer and the recipient of the invoice are both in Belgium, the general rule above always applies. For example, if a Dutch-speaking enterprise wants to draw up an invoice in French for a French-speaking client, this must be a translation of an initial Dutch invoice – only the Dutch document is the legally valid invoice.
We recommend that if you are providing a second-language invoice, you always send your client both versions: the original invoice as well as the translated version. The original version will always take precedence over the translation if there is any discrepancy between the two.
We base our advice on current legislation, interpretations and legal doctrine. This does not prevent the administration from being able to challenge it or to change existing interpretations.