Tax & admin · 1 June 2016

Top ten worst late payment excuses revealed

late payments
“Your invoice was unethical” was amongst the worst late payment excuses

Late payments continue to stall the growth prospects of Britain’s micro businesses and freelancers, with the list of excuses from late and non-paying clients becoming longer and increasingly farcical.

A recent survey conducted by accountants FreeAgent revealed the extent of the excuses many clients will make to get around not paying what they owe to smaller business owners, with poorly pets, feigned illness and a boss’ holiday plans all popular choices.

Some late payment excuses are more ridiculous than others. The top ten most outrageous excuses for late and non-payment found by the survey included:

  • Can I buy you a pint and call it quits?
  • My cat is sick
  • I’ve been in hospital for two weeks having my tonsils removed (they hadn’t)
  • Our CEO is still on a sailing holiday
  • My dog ate your invoice
  • Your invoice was unethical
  • I refered your services to a friend, so I thought that would mean you wouldn’t charge me
  • You didn’t chase me enough for payment
  • To a professional photographer: The photograph you took was of me, so I don’t need to pay you
  • I have no money left, but you’ll get paid if you work on my next project and move with me to Qatar

Conducted amongst 500 micro business owners and freelancers, the survey revealed one client who even invented new contracts with fake non-payment clauses, and another who replicated the work of a freelancer then claimed to have done it themselves. Bankruptcy was also used as a non-payment excuse for one client, when that client had actually sold all their assets and fled the UK.

FreeAgent co-founder and CEO Ed Molyneux said that some of the excuses used, and lies told, by late or non-paying clients were “unacceptable”.

“Our research shows just how many awful and ridiculous excuses clients give for not settling their debts,” he added. “Very few micro business owners can afford to wait months, or even years, to get the money they’re owed, so it’s vital to chase up late-paying clients as soon as possible.

“Send frequent reminder emails, call clients regularly, review the relevant late payment legislation and check what kind of debt recovery or small claims options are available to you if your client still won’t pay. Otherwise you’ll just be putting your business’s cash flow – and potentially its future – at risk.”

The survey also uncovered the UK’s most common excuses for late and non-payments. These included:

  • I didn’t end up using the work you produced, so I’m not paying you
  • I don’t have the money to pay you
  • I haven’t received your invoice
  • I’m waiting to get paid by a client and can’t pay you until then

How can you ensure that your small business doesn’t fall into the late payment trap? Read our expert’s advice.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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