BACS to basics - no more excuses

ON A recent payment-chasing ring round, I noticed many accounts departments had made it their New Year resolution to switch from payment by cheque to payment by BACS - which, for the benefit of sub-editor members, stands for "Bankers Automated Clearing Services", with missing apostrophe.

Naturally, they hadn't bothered to tell me. Some appeared to use "we're still waiting for your bank details" as an excuse for not paying me, even though they hadn't even asked for my details.

The information you need to give your clients to switch to BACS is:

  • name and address of your bank branch
  • its sort code (looks like 00-00-00)
  • name of account
  • account number

BACs payments should take one to two working days from when accounts payable authorise them to when they arrive in your account. If they have a reference attached to them - if you or the payer requested a name to go with the payment to help track it - then it will take longer, four to five working days. Why this should be so is a mystery, but it's nice to know.

One member, who hadn't been told about TSL Education's recent switch, was automatically included in their next BACS round because they had included their bank details on their invoice.

The BACS system website has resources - including a grim "little book of late payments excuses" based on the pathetic examples they've heard: try "the wind blew your invoice out of the window" or "a customer's car caught fire in the car park" or "the bank burned down and nobody could verify the account".

Addendum 25 August 2007

Then there's the IBAN...

IN PRINCIPLE, you could simply supply your client with the "IBAN" code - that's an "International Bank Account Number". It's listed on your bank statement.

In practice, not all clients based in the UK are very good at international thingies. But the IBAN is invaluable if you want to get paid by a client in joined-up Europe. Often, it's the only way to get paid by them.

Update 27 December 2017

UK banks now (aim to) take less time to clear payments, after MPs asked "how can you justify sitting on customers' money for three to four days when electronic clearance takes milliseconds?"