We searched online for the most commonly used excuses that business use for not paying their invoices on time.

Below, are the most common excuses given by customers and how a potential supplier can respond to the customer relative to the stated excuse.

While these excuses are reported by parties whose invoice payments are late, it important that you take into consideration the context in which the excuses were given.

From our late payment directory, you can get information on businesses, small and large, that don’t pay their invoices, but it will ultimately be the suppliers’ responsibility to decide on how to move forward profitably.

Excuse #1

I have also not received payment from my customers

This is only a viable reason if you agreed on an arrangement where the customer would pay you once they received payment from their customer. If you had no such arrangement, you need to take a strong stance against the customer and make it clear that this has nothing to do with your payment according to the terms agreed.

How to avoid:

Make the payment terms very clear so that your payment is not hedged on the customers’ ability to sell the product or receive payment after selling.

How to respond:

Here is a potential reply to this excuse.

Dear customer,

Thank you for letting me know why my invoice hasn’t been paid yet. I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing delays with your customers.

However, this does not align with the payment terms that we agreed on before I supplied your order. We clearly stated that I would receive my payment 14 days after receipt of the invoice and it is now 15 days overdue.

Kindly let me know when you are expecting to receive the payments from your customers, and if further delays are anticipated.

Going forward, please communicate your acceptable payment arrangement with me while making the order to avoid further misunderstandings.

Best regards,

You

Excuse #2

Invoice dispute – with a contract agreed on

The first thing to do when a customer gives such an excuse is to ask for the specific reason that they are disputing the invoice.

How to avoid:

Have a clear contract that includes details such as product description, quality, price, and time, among other specifications. Also, keep detailed logs of all communication regarding the order.

 How to respond:

It’ is important to remain calm while responding to disputed invoices and to understand that it doesn’t mean that one of the parties is wrong. The response to such an excuse should focus on understanding the specific reason for disputing the invoice after it falls due.

Dear client,

Thank you for letting me know why my invoice has not been paid. Firstly, I would like to express my concern at your displeasure after the invoice has fallen due. I sincerely hope we can resolve the issue and move forward profitably.

As you may be aware, the invoice is now 10 days late, and no one in your company attempted to contact me earlier regarding this delay.

Please let me know the reason you are disputing the invoice, and. I will try my best to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Any advice on how to proceed would be most welcome.

Best regards,

You

Excuse #3

I am unable to get to the office to process payments

If this is the excuse that was given by a customer, check whether it was a genuine reason. For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, instant compulsory lockdowns were initiated in some areas and this made it impossible for companies that were still operating to process invoices.

How to avoid:

Understand the payment procedures of the customer and where possible, request a flexible payment method such as BACS.

 How to respond:

The response to this excuse should be dependent on why the customer is unable to get to the office and when they’ll be able to go to the office.

Dear customer,

Thank you for letting me know why my invoice is late.

Please let me know whether you are in a position to process the payment through other methods. If no other methods are available, could you please let me know when you will be back to the office?.

The invoice is now 2 weeks late and, as I’m sure you can understand, this is impacting my business negatively.

I appreciate your business and look forward to your reply.

Best regards
You

Excuse #4

Cannot pay the invoice due to cashflow issues

This is a difficult excuse to take as it leaves you in the dark about whether you’ll ever get paid. After gathering more details about the reason why the business is not paying the invoice, you can know how to proceed. Press hard and not just accept the customer’s proposal to pay in instalments or at a later date.

How to avoid:

Look at the current financials of the company. Also, check the credit agencies to see how the business has been rated. Take into consideration the economic situation during which the company was unable to pay for its bills.

How to respond:

Respond to this excuse by enquiring about the specific reasons why the business is unable to pay.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

Please give me more details as to why you are unable to pay my invoice? Also, let me know when you’ll be able to make the payment? Any advice on how to proceed will be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

You

Excuse #5

We are bankrupt and about to be liquidated

Some businesses will use this as an excuse to reduce the pressure they receive from their suppliers while others will be genuine. In the rare scenario, that the business gets more investment and plan to clear its debts, you need to be well-positioned to get paid.

How to avoid: 

Check whether the business you are dealing with is financially sound or on the verge of collapsing. If a business was listed as having given this response and they are now handing you a purchase order, be very careful.

How to respond:

Respond to such an excuse by asking for proof that they are filing for bankruptcy and ask for the insolvency practitioner’s contacts and read the government’s guidance on insolvency.

Dear customer,

I acknowledge receiving your response.

My invoice is now 30 days late and your response is very alarming.

Kindly provide me with the documents you are using to file for bankruptcy as proof.  Also, please provide me with the insolvency practitioner’s contact.

I’m notifying you in advance that I will be lodging my complaint if my invoice isn’t paid.

Any advice on how you would want me to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

You

Excuse #6

The owner or signatory has died

This is a very sensitive situation, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are still owed money. Although this can have an impact on when you get paid, it should not change the payment terms beyond a reasonable shift in payment date.

How to avoid:

Always keep all your records. This will ensure that, in case there is a death, you can provide evidence that you are owed money. If you simply supply an order based on a verbal request and you get no signed delivery note, your invoice or payment terms can easily be rejected by the person who takes over the business.

How to Respond:

Understand that there will probably be a delay due to signatory changes, orientation, and invoice re-verification. Offer your condolences and also confirm that you have all the documents related to the order and would be ready to send them if requested

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response, and condolences for your loss.

First, let me assure you that I understand the delay in paying my invoice. I would appreciate it if you could let me know at your earliest convenience when you’re likely to be in a position to process the payment.

Regarding my invoice, I have a copy of the purchase order, delivery note, and invoice in soft copy in case you need them later.

I would appreciate your advice on how to proceed.

Again, you have my deepest condolences for your loss.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #7

The cheque has been posted

This is one of the worse and most common excuses meant to delay the payment. Without the cheque at hand, no payment has been made and you should never take comfort in just being given this excuse.

How to avoid:

If you see this excuse against a business and don’t want to fall victim to the same excuse, request a different payment method. If the due date will be within 28 days of invoice delivery, you can request a post-dated payment to be physically issued on the day the invoice is issued. Another way of avoiding this situation is to request for the payment to be processed via BACS.

Double-check the current payment details and include them on the invoice.

How to respond:

If they cannot provide proof that the cheque has been posted, ask them to cancel the cheque and pay you using another method. Here is an example of a response:

Dear customer,

Thank you for your reply.

The payment is now 30 days late and there has been no prior communication regarding this delay. Please provide me with documents supporting the reason given. Alternatively, it may be easier to cancel the cheque and pay me using another more reliable method.

We value your business and look forward to your response.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #8

Banks switching process causing the delay

Organizations don’t regularly change the banks they use to receive or make payments. If this excuse is given, you should know that the process of switching banks takes about 7 working days and so shouldn’t delay payment for much longer than this period.

How to avoid:

While you can’t fully avoid this excuse because it can be genuine at times, it only causes short term delays. Be sure to ask which bank you’ll be paid through at the beginning of the contract and provide the details of your bank too. This will make it difficult for customers to use this excuse if it isn’t true.

How to respond:

You respond to this excuse by asking when the switch will be complete and whether they have alternative payment methods.

Dear client

Thank you for your response.

My invoice is now 3 weeks late, which is longer than I would expect given the stated reason for the delay.
Could you please provide me with details about the bank you are switching to so that I can update my records?

I would also appreciate it if you could let me know when you expect the process to be completed and the payment processed.

I am open to other payment methods to resolve the delay in payment as soon as possible. I look forward to your response,

Best regards,
You

Excuse #9

The product supplied did not work as expected

If this is true, it should have been brought up during the delivery or before the invoice reached the stage of being late. Any issues regarding the quality of an order supplied should be brought up early on and not when you demand the payment.

How to avoid:

Have a contract that clearly defines the expected product quality and the duration within which quality concerns should be raised. Also, confirm that the product is inspected, approved, and signed as approved in your presence or your representative’s presence. Where possible, take a sample to the customer for approval before delivering the full order.

How to respond:

Be polite and ask for specific details about where the product’s quality failed to meet the agreed specifications. Sometimes it can be a small issue that you can resolve easily and receive your payment fast.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response, I am sorry that the product has not met your expectations. Kindly specify how the product did not meet the agreed specifications, and I will do my best to address your issue within a reasonable period.

The invoice is 20 days late at the time of writing, which as you can imagine is very concerning to us. We value your business and hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Advice on how to proceed will be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #10

Errors on the invoice

If a company gave this as an excuse, it may well be genuine, but it is sometimes used as a delay tactic to avoid prompt payment.

How to avoid:

Confirm that all the details included in the invoice are accurate and be sure to maintain a copy of the invoice submitted to the customer. When submitting the invoice, ask the receiver of the invoice to check and verify that the details are accurate.

While invoicing the customer, confirm that all other supporting documents match what is in the invoice. For instance, check that the account details on the contract are the same as those on the invoice and that the order details are the same as those included in the purchase order (PO).

How to respond:

The first step when responding to this excuse is to enquire about the error and how it can be corrected.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your explanation as to why my invoice is late.

Kindly let me know what the error is and how I can correct it within the shortest time possible. You can directly reach me on my personal phone: +12300000 for a faster response.

I apologise for any inconvenience and look forward to your reply.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #11

Prioritising main suppliers first

This excuse should never be accepted unless it was agreed on at the beginning of the contract. Never allow the customer to comfortably treat your business in this manner.

How to avoid:

Offer your customer a friendly reminder about your payment on the day it falls due. Don’t wait until it is late for you to start pushing to be paid.

How to respond:

Politely express your dissatisfaction with this response and remind the customer that they are obligated to pay you as per agreed terms.

Dear customer,

Your response does not reflect the payment terms that we agreed to, and I will therefore have to insist on payment as soon as possible.

As of today, the invoice is 30 days late. Kindly let me know when I can expect to receive payment, and we can take things from there.

Please understand that I appreciate your business and believe we can both move forward profitably.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #12

I am too busy

This can happen when an audit is being conducted but this shouldn’t take too many days. It’s a frustrating excuse to hear, especially if you don’t have a specific date when the person responsible will become available.

How to avoid:

Enquire about the company payment policies and who approves the payment. Call the person responsible the day the invoice falls due to make sure it is given priority even when they are too busy. In short, don’t wait until your invoice is late to start requesting your payment.

How to respond:

Respond by asking why the person is busy and when they expect to be available to pay your invoice.

Dear customer,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my late invoice inquiry.

It has been 30 days since the invoice fell due and no prior warning regarding anticipated delays was given. I appreciate that you are busy, however, we are keen to resolve this issue at your earliest convenience.

Kindly let me when you’ll be available to make the payment and if all the details in the invoice are correct.

I look forward to your response.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #13

Did not receive the goods or service

This can be a genuine reason for a customer not to honour the invoice. It can happen because the invoice was not attached to a purchase order, or because there was no delivery note. It is important to have your copies of supporting documents with you in case of such an excuse.

How to avoid:

Include the exact details of the purchase order in your invoice and make sure that delivery note details are also accurate. Store these documents in soft copy; this way, you can forward them at a moment’s notice if this issue arises.

How to respond:

Respond to this excuse by providing the supporting documents. For instance:

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

I have confirmation documents showing the receipts of the products ordered.

Kindly see the attached transaction supporting documents which include the purchase order, delivery note, and invoice.

The invoice is now 14 days late and I hope these documents help clear any issues that have caused the delay.

I look forward to your response.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #14

Systems are down

This excuse should be treated with the utmost caution. System failures are short-lived and should not result in meaningful delays in payment. If a system failure occurs, the customer is responsible for advising their suppliers that payments will not be ongoing due to problems with the payment system. They should also provide an alternative payment method if the system problem persists.

How to avoid:

Request information about the payment options offered by the customer to their suppliers. Provide accurate banking details so as not to get further delays after the system issue has been corrected.

How to Respond:

You should ask for details on when the system issue will be corrected and whether they have alternative payment methods.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

As I mentioned previously, the invoice is now 21 days late. Kindly provide me with an expected date of when the system issue will be corrected. If further delays are anticipated, is there an alternative method that you can use to process the payment?

Any advice on moving forward will be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #15

The people we outsource payments to only do our accounts once a month.

If this is true, they should have mentioned this before they hired you. If a client has payment arrangements that are not standard, they should let you know in advance. This excuse should not wash if you have stated your payment terms clearly on your quotes and invoices.

How to avoid:

Although it isn’t your responsibility to check if a client has odd payment arrangements, clear payment terms on your proposal and invoices should avoid these misunderstandings.

How to respond:

Here is a potential reply to this excuse – depending on how many times you have tried to obtain payment.

Dear client,

Thank you for letting me know about your payment arrangements, which explains why my invoice(s) have not been paid. You may have noticed that my payment terms are clearly stated on my invoices as 30 days.

I appreciate your business, so going forward, please let me know what steps I should take to ensure timely payment in the future. For example, would it be easier if I sent my invoices before the end of the month? Any advice would be most welcome.

Best regards,
You

Excuse #16

The director is not in the office to sign the cheque

This is a common excuse around the holiday months. It is meant to be a delay tactic and in most cases, the customer will be secretive about when the director was last available.

How to avoid:

Enquire about who’ll be approving your payment and the payment release process at the beginning of the contract. Also, understand the availability of people responsible for the payment at the beginning of the contract.

How to Respond: 

For a business to be operational, they need the person who signs the cheques to be available to approve business expenses such as rent and salary. The goal would be to get the details of when the director will be back and also whether there is another method via which the payment can be approved. Example of a response:

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

At the time of writing, the invoice is 20 days late. As you can imagine, we are keen to resolve this issue.
With this in mind, kindly let me know how long the director has been away and when he is expected to return. In the meantime, are there other payment options available?

Your advice on how to proceed will be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,

You

Excuse #17

The person handling your file left the company

This is another excuse commonly used to buy more time and justify the continued delay. The customer should notify the suppliers in advance if the situation leading to delayed payments is foreseeable. Push for an alternative that can resolve the issue of a late invoice, such as an online bank transfer.

How to avoid:

Understand the payment process and get the contact of specific persons in the accounts department. Don’t assume that you have direct contact with emails such as ‘[email protected]’. Instead, make sure you get an individual’s email, as this will increase your chances of getting updates and responses to any concerns you might have.

How to respond:

In this case, your objective should be to know how and when the customer is expecting to handle the late invoice. Example of a response:

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

My invoice is now 30 days late and no communication has been made regarding the delay.

Kindly let me know how you are planning to handle the invoice to avoid further delays, and when. I can expect to receive payment.
Please put me in touch with the person who will now be handling the payment and let me know if you need more details to pay my invoice.

Any advice on how to proceed will be appreciated.

Best regards,

You

Excuse #18

I cannot find the invoice

This is another common excuse that causes delays because you have to send another invoice. A customer should communicate in advance if they can’t find the invoice or if they change the address between the time of preparing the purchase order and the delivery date.

How to avoid:

Double-check the customers’ address and ask the customer to confirm that address while signing the contract. After delivering the invoice, request the recipient to confirm that all the details on the invoice are accurate. Have a soft copy of the invoice ready to be forwarded instantly.

How to respond:

The goal is to get the customer another accurate invoice as soon as possible.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

The invoice I am contacting you about is now 21 days late. I have prepared and attached another invoice as well as the supporting documents. I hope this resolves the issue and that you are able to process the payment without further delays.

Kindly confirm upon receipt that all the details are accurate. If you could let me know the expected date when the payment will be made, that would be greatly appreciated

Best regards,

You

Excuse #19

I thought the payment term was 60 days not 30 days

This is a common excuse when the payment terms are not clearly defined. Do not assume the payment period will be 30 days because the customer had been paying you 30 days after receiving the invoice.

How to avoid:

Make the payment terms clear before embarking on supplying the order. Include this information on the contract and remind the customer of this when delivering the invoice. This will help take away any ambiguity that a customer can exploit.

How to respond:

If the payment terms weren’t clear, make them clear at this point and remind the customer to adhere to the agreed period in future transactions.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

The payment of my invoice is now 20 days late. Please note that the payment period for my customers is 30 days from the day of invoice receipt, and this hasn’t changed. I trust that you’ll keep this in mind in our future transactions to avoid further misunderstanding

Kindly let me know when I can expect the payment.

I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,

You

Excuse #20

I am resolving a tax issue related to your payment

This is a common excuse for small businesses and startups. However, the customer should share specific details on what the issue is and how long it will take to resolve.

How to avoid:

Make your invoice details very clear and state the sales tax amount separately to avoid delays related to this. Ask the customer to verify that the invoice details are all clear and accurate on the day of delivering the invoice.

How to respond:

The objective would be to get more details on the issues they are facing, whether they need any information from you and when they expect the issue will be resolved.

Dear customer,

Thank you for your response.

The invoice is now 15 days late, and we are keen to avoid further delays.

Kindly share more details about the issue you are facing and, if possible, share documents showing progress in resolving it. If you could let me know when you expect the matter to be resolved, that would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, if you need more details from me, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I look forward to your reply.

Best regards,

You

That’s it. These are the excuses we’ve collected online.

I am quite certain that there are many more excuses – I would love to hear them.

Leave the excuse that you have received from a client in the comments below.

https://cpa.co.uk/overcome-20-common-excuses-non-payment/
https://www.debtfast.co.uk/blog/2018/05/overdue-invoices-top-ten-excuses-invoices-not-paid/
https://www.crunch.co.uk/knowledge/get-paid/deal-payment-excuses/
https://debtadvocate.co.uk/the-uk-top-10-excuses-for-late-payment/
https://www.thepromptpaymentdirectory.co.uk/late-payment-explanations/

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