'A bill is "an amount of money owed for goods supplied or services rendered, set out in a printed or written statement of charges", while an invoice is "a list of goods sent or services provided, with a statement of the sum due for these"; the NOAD reports also that invoice means bill.'

Aren't these two definitions saying the same thing? When do we invoice someone and not bill them, and when do we bill them but not invoice them?

  • An invoice can be like a bill or like a receipt, depending on if you have already paid or not.
    – J.R.
    Jun 13, 2018 at 14:27
  • An invoice is a bill, same thing. However, usages and styles vary. I invoiced my clients yesterday=I billed my clients yesterday. However, I put the word invoice on the actual bill I send to clients. It sounds less like a restaurant or utility bill. In everyday conversation, we might say: Have you paid the bill? [amount owed] when we received something that says invoice. To pay bills in everyday language means to pay amounts owed for which you have been invoiced or billed.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2018 at 14:53
  • When do I, say, tell my staff, "Hey, bill client X, but don't invoice him. Invoice client Y, but don't bill him. And do both for client Z." Let's say I work as a manager at a wholesales company.
    – Bahram
    Jun 13, 2018 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


I have a broken foot so I cannot easily check my copy of Black's Law Dictionary. But my recollection is that a primary legal meaning of bill is a documentary order such as a bill of divorcement and, in a more restricted sense, a written order to pay a legally owed debt. An invoice then is a particular kind of bill arising from the sale of goods or services and specifying what was sold and for how much.

In other words, not all bills are invoices, but all invoices are bills. The Bill of Rights is not an invoice.

  • Related blogpost.
    – J.R.
    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:07
  • JR Helpful view, more focused than mine on business and accounting speech rather than legal speech. Thanks. Jun 14, 2018 at 1:30
  • Jeff Morrow, can you provide an example where a bill is not an invoice? I think of an invoice as an itemized list of products/services with corresponding prices, whereas a bill seems to refers to a sum of the monies owed, with or without a specified list. Hospital bill - invoice; restaurant bill-invoice; grocery receipt (bill)-invoice; psychological services bill-invoice; lab test results bill-invoice; insurance bill-invoice. Utility bill-invoice. What bill can you name that's not an itemized list?
    – Bahram
    Jun 14, 2018 at 2:04
  • Uhm. I already mentioned two examples: a bill of divorcement and the Bill of Rights. I could also mention a bill of exchange. The common thread is that they are all written orders. A bill of exchange is a written order to pay. Jun 14, 2018 at 2:14
  • Moreover, a bill for payment need not be an itemized list. Amount due $114.54 is a bill. As I said in my answer, an invoice is itemized, thereby making it a kind of bill. Jun 14, 2018 at 2:22

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