Late Payments Requests: Dealing With Vendors Who Can't Manage Their Invoicing/Receivables Functions

I'll be the first to admit that I'm functionally illiterate when it comes to keeping up with such things as invoicing, expenses and related matters, which is why I've traditionally outsourced this as much as possible to those around me (from PAs in past lives to those who take pity on me in a small business environment). But still, I probably am at least a few months behind on client-reimbursed expenses (though nothing predates the Obama administration, I promise). Fortunately, not all vendors are as bad as we are. But when vendors do send you an invoice that is quarters or years old, what should you do about it? A recent post over on the vendor management office blog has some excellent advice on the subject of when suppliers "forget" to bill you.

The first step is to understand that your actual obligation of payment will vary between countries and states. Consider "in Virginia," for example, "a supplier can submit an invoice associated with a written contract up to 5 years late and still have a legal right to get paid." Given that the statute of limitations on requesting payment can run longer than the limitations for filing complaints in certain cases of fraud or property damage, it's essential to understand business-focused techniques for making the most of the situation long after your budget for a requested payment has been allocated elsewhere or canceled entirely.

In the post, author Steven Guth recommends following the following steps: escalate the matter at suppliers; asking suppliers to prove it by showing the actual obligation and agreement; pushing back on suppliers by making a "good business sense appeal to the supplier;" negotiating a reduced amount; pushing out the requested payment terms into future quarters or budget years; and last, but certainly not least, threatening the supplier in as reasonable a means as possible and, as a last ditch effort, telling that "you'll never, ever do business with the supplier again unless they make the old invoice go away." Steven also suggests that if you really want to get nasty, you can refuse to pay -- "you can always tell the supplier that you refuse to pay and that they can come after you" which is unlikely, he suggests, for small amounts -- or legally "circumvent state laws" based on contracting language.

All these points add up to sage advice on the uncomfortable situation of late vendor invoices. Just please be sure to don't use any of these techniques against any business I'm a part of, now will you!

Jason Busch

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  1. Dan Lee:

    How long can a supplier/vendor submit an invoice associated with a written or no contract in Texas have a legal right to get paid.?

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