Getting paid on time

Manage your credit effectively by creating policies and procedures covering:

Terms and conditions for providing goods and/or services

If you provide credit to customers it is essential to put the terms and conditions in writing. This will help to minimise payment disputes and ensure you can effectively manage your finances. Seek legal advice to ensure that your terms and conditions protect your interests and are enforceable.

Terms and conditions should:

  • specify how and when payments are made
  • outline any penalties for late payments, including the rate of interest and fees
  • disclose any additional fees that may apply to payments, such as credit card fees
  • be clearly included on all quotes, estimates, contracts and related documentation
  • meet your business needs
  • include no illegal or unfair terms

It is good practice to have customers sign acceptance of your terms and conditions before providing any goods and/or services.

TIP: Providing credit to customers can be risky. Minimise your risk by developing a credit application process or consider alternatives to offering credit.

Invoicing and payments

Invoicing on a regular basis will help you maintain a healthy cash flow. Invoices should clearly state details of the goods and/or services, the amount owing, the due date for payment and available payment methods.

It is important to know the difference between an invoice and a tax invoice.

If your business is not registered for GST, your invoice should not include a taxable component and should be referred to as an ‘invoice’. However, if your business is registered for GST, the invoice should state the GST against each item and have the words ‘tax invoice’ included.

The Australian Tax Office has developed voluntary standards relating to the layout of tax invoices and invoices, as well as practical information for issuing tax invoices.

Monitor debtors (those who owe you money) closely and act quickly when payments are late.

TIP: If you have extended payment terms, consider providing a reminder to your customers before the payment due date to ensure they remember to pay on time.

Debt recovery

Not being paid for the goods and services you have supplied will impact on the cash flow and profitability of your business. Establishing a process to deal with non-payment and recover debt is critical; however it is also important that it allows you to maintain a good relationship with customers.

Consider the following options:

  1. Get in touch with your customer
    Contact them as soon as their invoice is overdue to determine whether they have a valid reason for not paying. Try to negotiate a revised deadline for them to pay

  2. Send a letter of demand
    If you still don’t receive payment, consider sending a letter of demand outlining the amount overdue, the deadline by which you expect payment and the action you will take if they fail to pay on time. Keep a copy of the letter and send it by registered post, to provide evidence if you need to make a claim in court. You can create your own letter of demand or download and modify our sample letter.

    TIP: It is illegal to use methods that harass, coerce or mislead people about their debts. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have useful information about debt collection and your legal obligations.

  3. Seek assistance
    If a customer has not paid as the result of a dispute about the performance or supply of goods and services you may consider using an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. ADR provides a range of options to settle a dispute without going to court.

  4. Hire a debt collector
    A debt collector will act on your behalf to pursue a debt from your customer. They will charge a fee or a percentage of the total amount collected. In Western Australia, debt collectors must be licensed through the Department of Commerce. Search for the debt collectors at the Institute of Mercantile Agents.

  5. Start legal proceedings

    You may need to take legal action if the debt remains unpaid. Some proceedings can be complex and expensive so first consider the:

    • likelihood of recovering the debt
    • time away from your business in pursuing the debt
    • associated legal and court costs

In Western Australia, the type of court to deal with disputes is based on the value of the debt.

Magistrates Court District Court Supreme Court
Minor claims  -  debt or damages up to $10,000

General claims  -  debt or damages up to $75,000
Debt or damages up to $750,000 Debt over $750,000

 

Read our publication: Recovering a debt through the Magistrates Court for more information

Related Information
Toolkit

Workshops

Take charge of your finances with the help of our step-by-step workshop Understanding Your Business Financials