Invoice and promissory note: we analyze them

The origin of both is due to the need to document the economic relationships that human beings have developed over time. Thus, the first writings including calculations that appeared in ancient Mesopotamia can be considered the first invoices in history. An example would be the Kushim tablet (3400-3000 BC) where he records the receipt of 29,086 tons of barley over 37 months. 

We have to go back to the Middle Ages (XII-XIII) to find the origin of the promissory note. They emerged as a solution to vandalism in the south of Italy: this way they avoided carrying cash on long trips.

In Spain it was regulated for the first time in the Commercial Code of 1829. At present it is regulated by the exchange and check law of July 16, 1985.

But are we clear about the differences between the two? Let’s compare them:



  • Promissory note: It is a credit title, promise of future payment, it’s a firm commitment.
  • Invoice: It is a commercial document that reflects a commercial transaction between two parties.



  • Promissory note:
    • To the order: it allows the assignment of the promissory note by endorsement.
    • Not to the order: it does not allow endorsement, it can only be transmitted through an assignment of credit.
  • Invoice: it is transmitted by assignment of credit; the debtor must sign the acceptance.

The assignment of credit must be reflected in a contract, while the endorsement is included in a clause that already comes in the promissory note to the order, which means greater speed and flexibility.



  • Promissory note: It would involve an exchange or judgment procedure. It is faster and more agile, since the steps that the process follows once the claim is admitted for processing are:
    1. The debtor is required to proceed to make the payment of the amount claimed in the lawsuit within 10 days.
    2. Lien is ordered.

Therefore, it allows almost automatic seizure. It is important to take this into account when signing, since it is not the same to do it on behalf of the company, which would be the one that would respond with its assets or capital, than to do it in a private capacity responding with our own assets.

  • Invoice: It would be resolved through an order for payment procedure. The seizure can only be produced after filing an executive demand, after claiming the payment without the refund of the amount having taken place, which implies that the solution can be extended in time.



  • Promissory note: The payment commitment is normally made on a checking account, with the banks themselves preparing the documents in compliance with formal requirements:
    • Denomination of the promissory note.
    • Amount of promise to pay.
    • Place of payment.
    • Expiration.
    • Name of the person to whom the payment is to be made.
    • Date and place of signature.
    • Signature of the person issuing the title.
    • Space to fill in endorsement and guarantee on the back.

Example of promissory note:


  • Invoice: Document that must include, according to the Tax Agency itself, the following information:
    • Place and date of issue.
    • Number and serial if apply.
    • Tax data of the issuer: name and surname or company name, tax identification number and address.
    • Goods delivered or services rendered.
    • Tax rate.
    • Total compensation.

Example of invoice:


FACTORING and CONFIRMING arise as forms of financing for both, through the advance payment of invoices or discount of promissory notes. Its more in-depth study will be the subject of another article, but here we will make a brief introduction.

  1. Factoring is a collection service, it is an advance of liquidity of the sales that the creditor company made in installments to its clients. Can be:
    • With recourse: the client or financed company assumes the risk.
    • Without recourse: in case of non-payment, the financed company is free of all responsibility.
  2. Confirming is a payment service, where the paying or debtor company includes the possibility to its creditors to collect payments before the due date.

History reflects the enormous evolution of the human being but it also shows that our needs remain basically the same. The promissory note and the invoice are still as necessary today as they were in their origins. Progress has multiplied the complexity and the number of transactions, but at the same time technological advance has offered us new solutions. Online platforms are an example of this.

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