How do I record expenses if an invoice is lost?

Companies are required by law to keep customer and supplier invoices for a period of 10 years from the end of the relevant financial year. All supporting documents proving, among other things, sales and purchases must be available for presentation to the tax inspector in the event of a tax audit. If certain invoices are lost, the company is liable to penalties. Accounting is an activity that requires a great deal of rigor. Invoices have to be sorted, filed and recorded as they are received. The best way to lose documents is to let them accumulate. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by getting organized. In spite of this, it can happen that a supplier's invoice has not been received, or that it has been accidentally lost or thrown in the garbage can. The important thing is to find out. The sooner, the better. Recording an expense without an invoice is problematic. You need to act quickly to get the invoice at all costs.

We all know that every transaction recorded in the accounts must be supported by a valid document. In the case of expenses, this is either a receipt or an expense report, or an invoice including VAT. In both cases, the expense is added to the other expenses and is included in the calculation of profit. A proper commercial document is therefore required to deduct the expense and reclaim VAT if you are a taxable person.

Invoice lost or not received: request a duplicate from the supplier

If you do not receive an invoice, contact your supplier and ask for a duplicate invoice. A bill can only be issued once, and your supplier is only authorized to provide you with a duplicate.

Duplicates are more than just photocopies of the original. They, too, are regulated. The document must be clearly distinguishable from the original invoice, while containing the same information. To this end, the terms "duplicate invoice" or "copy issued at the request of the purchaser" are used instead of "invoice" or "certified true copy". Otherwise, the duplicate must be identical in every respect.

If the supplier is no longer in business, the process becomes more complicated. In the case of a company in liquidation, you can always ask the liquidator for a duplicate. But in the case of an outright cessation of business, there is no way of justifying the expense. It will only be recorded by the bank.

Payment of the lost invoice must appear on the account statement. If you are unable to obtain a duplicate, you can enter the cheque directly as an expense (including VAT). You will then have to add this charge back to the profit and loss account. Your accountant may also choose to enter a miscellaneous transaction (O.D.).

The most important thing is to be transparent in order to prove your good faith: keep a copy of the letter or e-mail sent to the supplier requesting the duplicate, print proof of the cessation of activity, etc.

A controller's leniency will depend on the frequency of these "lost" invoices and the amounts involved. It's conceivable that you might lose toll or petrol tickets, as long as this is an occasional occurrence. In any case, charges are recorded inclusive of tax, and can be traced on credit card statements.

No more paper tickets

Declaration of honour in the event of lost invoice

If the lack of receipts concerns staff expenses not reimbursed in the form of lump-sum allowances, it is possible to produce a "declaration on honor" (to be used sparingly).

If an employee is unable to obtain a duplicate invoice, he or she must sign an attestation stating his or her identity, contact details, the reason for the expense and the amount. He/she must add the words "I am aware of the criminal penalties incurred by the author of a false attestation".

The employer is entitled to demand a personal bank statement showing only the expense in question (the rest can be hidden). There is no obligation to reimburse an employee without supporting documentation, but the company may be willing to take the risk for small amounts.

It seems clear that a sworn declaration is not the best solution. Expense reimbursements are strictly regulated by law. Without supporting documentation, there is a good chance that Urssaf will reclassify these expenses as benefits in kind, and impose a fine. Expense claims are exempt from social security charges, so it is preferable to provide proof of the expense in order to benefit from the exemption.

The dematerialization of expense reports minimizes loss. Technology now enables notes and invoices to be scanned and transmitted immediately to the accounting department. High-performance software is available to simplify the management of business expenses.


An expense with employee certification is recorded in the same way as if there were no accounting document at all. Once again, this situation must not be allowed to recur too often, as it is rarely tolerated by the tax authorities.

Lump-sum reimbursements can also help to avoid the problem, but they don't solve everything. Given that many tax reassessments concern business expenses, the ideal solution is once again to use digital tools.