So, you wanna be your own boss, huh? Good for you! Get ready for a bumpy ride full of number crunching, hours spent in government admin buildings, and trying to win over new clients. But hey, all the hassle will be worth it when you finally issue your first freelance invoice.
Let's face it, if we didn't get paid, what would be the point? I mean, we could just skip this article altogether, close up shop, and head to a deserted island 🏝 filled with coconuts, crystal clear waters, and a toasty temperature all year around.
But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Time to get down to business and learn everything you need to know about a freelance invoice in Spain.
Knowing the lingo surrounding invoicing is pretty important for expat freelancers in Spain, so here’s a quick run-down of the most common words and phrases related to creating invoices.
An invoice, according to Merriam-Webster… Hang on, we’re in Spain here, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) is our go-to resource.
Let’s start again.
According to the RAE, an invoice, or factura, is simply a bill that shows how much you're charging for your goods and services. If you’re a freelancer, or an autónomo, you’ll need to include a bunch of details or you won’t get paid 😲.
Now that we've got that straight, let's dive into the nitty-gritty. In this article, we’ll cover how to make your first freelance invoice, what information you need to include, and the format and structure you should follow.
Wake up, campers! It's 2023 and we (well, most of us) aren’t living in the dark ages anymore. We've been through a pandemic, inflation is our new BFF, Messi finally brought home the World Cup, and the US and China have started a balloon-based cold war. Black Mirror, anyone?
Long story short, writing invoices with pen and paper and sending them by snail mail is so old school it’s about to enter history textbooks. These days, most invoices are made in Excel or PDF format and sent via email.
There's no one right way to make a freelance invoice. Some solos prefer to create their own invoice templates, others copy from their friends, and some even use invoicing software.
But in keeping with the times, more and more freelancers are using Xolo’s simple online solution. With just a few clicks of a button, you’ll get sleek, compliant invoices that don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Sign up now to see how easy creating a freelance invoice in Spain can be!
While you have the freedom to choose your own invoice template, there's no leeway on the info you’ve got to include. Some things are simply non-negotiable if you want your invoice to be legit.
First and foremost, remember that you can only invoice for services or goods under the IAE category you're registered on with the Agencia Tributaria. If you plan to branch out and offer different services, make sure to register in the right category first.
Now, the required elements of an invoice will vary depending on the type of invoice you're making. But don't worry, we'll cover all the important details in the next section.
The full freelance invoice in Spain is the standard, go-to format unless you fall into one of the exceptions that we’ll see later. The mandatory information that must be included in the full invoice is:
In 2013, the Agencia Tributaria relaxed the rules around simplified invoices. These invoices don't require the recipient's information because the recipient is a regular person, not a company. The simplified invoice was introduced as a more reliable alternative to traditional receipts as proof of payment. And as you might have guessed, simplified invoices are more streamlined than using a full invoice format.
There are, of course, certain conditions that must be met to use a simplified invoice:
A simplified invoice must include the following information:
As previously mentioned, it is 2023, and paper invoices have become a thing of the past. In the near future, even invoices generated in .pdf or .xls will also become obsolete.
Why? Because electronic invoices, which are better at preventing fraud, are going to take over.
Electronic invoices must include the same information as regular invoices, but they are issued electronically. Additionally, some electronic invoices may also have extra elements such as QR codes.
The newly introduced electronic invoices are already mandatory for any work for public organizations and in some Spanish regions, such as the Basque Country.
In addition to the three main types of invoices, there are a few others that are used less frequently.
Everyone makes mistakes, even when it comes to invoicing your freelance clients. Fortunately, corrective invoices are there to help you fix any errors on previous invoices. You have up to four years to send a corrective invoice, so don't worry if you need to make any adjustments.
Going back to our flamenco dancer example 💃. Let's say in 2027 the economy is thriving, inflation is under control, and people all over Andalusia are partying non-stop. The Jerez Flamenco Festival is bouncing, and you’re on and off the stage like a yo-yo.
Instead of sending 20 separate invoices to the organizers, you could opt to send a summary invoice that includes all those jobs.
If you're not familiar with the term "proforma invoice”, don't worry, you're not alone. But you might have heard of a “quote”. Same thing.
This type of invoice is simply a draft invoice that you send to your customer to provide pricing information for your services. It has no accounting value and doesn't bind you to any kind of commitment.
While invoicing is what brings in the dough, you’ve also got a few duties to fulfill if you want to stay in the Agencia Tributaria’s good books. First off, you need to keep track of the VAT you collect and the income tax withheld from your invoices, then report them to the tax authorities either quarterly and/or annually. While it may not be the most exciting aspect of freelance work, it's important to stay on top of these obligations to make sure you're compliant.
VAT and personal income tax. Two peas in a pod who love popping up all over freelance life.
Although some activities are exempt from VAT, almost all invoices to Spanish clients need to include value-added tax. Although the standard rate is 21%, the applicable amount could be 4% or 10%, depending on the activity.
For freelancers, the standard income tax rate is 15%. There is a reduced rate of 7% for your first year as a freelancer in Spain, but in both cases, you have to balance your books with your annual tax return.
Now that you are familiar with the basics of invoicing, it's time to explore different types of invoices according to the country you and your clients are based in. For all of the following cases, we’ll assume you’re living and working in Spain.
These invoices are issued within Spain and have three potential recipients:
In the latter case, the following statement must be added:
"Invoice exempt from VAT in accordance with article 20.1, section 102 of the VAT Law 37/1992".
Or in Spanish…
“Factura exenta de IVA de acuerdo con artículo 20.uno, apartado 102 de la Ley 37/1992 del IVA”
So-called intra-community invoices are those issued outside of Spain but within the European Union. Both the issuer and the client must be registered in the ROI (Register of Intra-Community Operators), which you can check here. If not, and you’re the issuer, you have to create your invoice with Spanish VAT, including “nacional de servicios” in the description of your work.
You can also create intra-community invoices in three ways:
In the last case, add the following text:
"Invoice exempt from VAT pursuant to Directive 2006/112/EC and art. 25 of VAT Law 37/1992".
Here’s the Spanish again.
“Factura exenta de IVA por aplicación de la Directiva 2006/112/CE y el art. 25 de la Ley 37/1992 del IVA".
So how do you deal with your clients from Singapore, the USA, and (sorry) the UK? Without being in the same country as your clients, or having an ROI-style agreement, you have to manage VAT differently, as we’ll see.
You can create your non-EU invoices in three ways:
In this final case, the recipient's tax ID number must be added along with the line:
"Transaction not subject to localization rules by virtue of art. 69 of Law 37/1992 on VAT".
And in Spanish:
“Operación no sujeta por normas de localización en virtud del art. 69 de la Ley 37/1992, del IVA.”
Dealing with unpaid invoices can be a headache for freelancers in Spain and all over the world. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do beyond hiring a debt collector. However, it is possible to recover the VAT included in the invoice if certain conditions are met:
If you check all those boxes, you can issue a corrective invoice and get the VAT back. It ain't much, but hey, every little helps.
So, you know that feeling when you send the wrong invoice and don’t quite hit “undo” in time? Yeah, we've all been there. If it’s to a client, you can kindly ask them to destroy it in a skip fire while you send the right one. Sadly though, once you've sent it off to the tax authorities, there's no going back.
But there is hope! You can create a corrective invoice. It's like canceling out the original one and starting over.
Yes, we know, invoicing in Spain is no walk in the park, and an invoice template would be a great help. But what if Xolo could offer you something even better?
We’ve created a super-user-friendly platform to make invoicing in Spain as easy as filling in a couple of boxes. Plus, you get free registration and advice for every step of the process. Check out what a proper freelance invoice should look like below:
Like what you see?
Come say hi 👋 and find out how much Xolo can reduce your admin hours.