What an invoice does not do in Guatemala

There are so many things that are attributed to invoices. Many qualities and functions that colloquially, even the authorities promulgate, are repeated, and repeated without really being functions of these documents.

An invoice, in Guatemala, is a fiscal document of the VAT regime. Its function is only to document the obligation to charge VAT on sales of goods or provision of services in the national territory. From this, let’s see what they are not:

    1. Payment vouchers. The invoice is not a payment voucher, since article 34 of the VAT law clearly states that: “Time of issuance of invoices. In the sale of movable goods, invoices, debit notes and credit notes, must be issued and provided to the purchaser or buyer, at the time of the actual delivery of the goods. In the case of services rendered, they must be issued at the same time the remuneration is received.” Thus, when receiving goods, the invoice would document, in any case, the delivery of the good, not the payment. In the case of services, the invoice must be issued at the time of payment, so it could be indicated that it is a proof of payment.
    1. Collection document. The VAT invoice is not a debt collection document. Although there is a document called exchange invoice, which does serve to documentally record the debt for the sale of goods or provision of services, the exchange invoice is a credit title independent of the tax invoice. Let us see the regulation in the Code of Commerce: article 591. The Exchange Invoice is the credit title, issued in physical or electronic form, that in the sale of goods or in the rendering of services, the seller or service provider issues and delivers or remits to the buyer or beneficiary of a service. Once it is issued, it incorporates a right of credit on the totality or on the unpaid part of the sale or rendering of services. The buyer or beneficiary of a service shall be obliged to return, to the seller or service provider, the original accepted bill of exchange, in the form and under the conditions established in this chapter. An exchange invoice for the sale of goods may not be issued if the goods have not been actually or symbolically delivered. In the case that they are issued for the rendering of services, the service provider is responsible for the veracity of what is established in the document and that it is possible to assign the right of credit independently of the obligation contained in the contract by virtue of which he will benefit from the service.

      • The main point of difference is that in an exchange invoice the buyer or beneficiary of a service will be obliged to return the original accepted exchange invoice, in the form and conditions established in this chapter, since it will be the document used by the seller to collect his debt.
      • Therefore, if the VAT obligation is to “take” the invoice upon receipt of the goods, even if they are not paid, and, for VAT, in the case of invoices for services, it is issued upon receipt of payment, the exchange invoice is totally different and does not fit into the form in which the VAT invoice is regulated.

    2. Property title. This “error” is the best of all. Although it is not known with certainty where it comes from, the closest rule to this idea is perhaps the one contained in the Tax Code that says: (article 98 numeral 10) “To verify the inventories of goods or merchandise and values. As well as to verify goods or merchandise object of transportation. For such purpose, the individuals or legal entities providing the transportation service, including the driver of the respective vehicle, are obliged to demand from the sender the ownership vouchers and other documents approved under the customs regime, which cover the goods or merchandise transported; they are also obliged to carry such documents for the duration of the transfer and, as well as the owner of the goods or merchandise, to present them to the officials designated by the Tax Administration, when they so require. In order to comply with this attribution, the public security forces shall immediately provide the support requested by the Tax Administration.”

In commerce, to prove ownership of a good being transported, the ideal document is a bill of lading or shipping certificate -called Bill of Lading B/L in English- which does have these characteristics. In imports, the bill of lading proves ownership, and the “commercial invoice” proves the price.

In a local transport, it is a waybill or bill of lading that the carrier should issue and carry. The Code of Commerce establishes:

    1. Article 808: Bill of lading. The carrier shall issue a voucher, of having received the cargo, which it shall deliver to the shipper, or, if the shipper so requires, a waybill or bill of lading. In any case, the carrier shall be entitled to demand the opening and recognition of the packages at the time of delivery.
    2. Article 588. Permanent Routes: The carriers or charterers, who operate permanent transportation routes, under concession, authorization or state permit, may issue to the shippers waybills or bills of lading, which shall have the character of representative titles of the goods being transported.

The bill of lading will serve to cover goods transported by sea. The bill of lading will serve to cover goods transported by air or land. Therefore, it is erroneous to pretend that an invoice covers the ownership of things that are being transported. In your case, if it is a professional transport, there could be a duplicate of such waybill or bill of lading, but not an invoice.

In our regulation of the right of ownership in the Civil Code, we find that: “article 617: Possession presumes ownership, possession gives to the one who has it, the presumption of ownership, as long as the contrary is not proven. Only the possession that is acquired and enjoyed as owner of the thing possessed, can produce the domain by usucapion. “This means that things do not require an “invoice” as proof of ownership. It is a presumption and requires proof to be rebutted, not the other way around. In other words, requiring documentary proof of ownership of a thing that goes in my vehicle is contrary to law. In any case, someone must prove that I am not the owner or, if necessary, dispute the ownership before a competent judge.

Let’s hope that misconceptions about invoices will be corrected.