Is billing Amazon’s Achilles heel ?

istock_000000199356xsmallHaving worked on a number of projects with Amazon Web Services recently the one non-technical thing that has stood out is the billing model that Amazon adopts which basically forces the company to have a credit card available and then Amazon produce an email with the least amount of information possible on it to tell you that your credit card has been charged. If the user wants any kind of ‘Invoice’ they have to go back to their account and try and download usage amounts and associated bills. There is not one clean Invoice and a number of ‘features’ missing for this type of model…to name but a few:

What I am looking for is a way to put some control back into an Organisations hands, including:

– A way to grant access to more  granular access to users and therefore track who /which department in the company is using the service

– Central Management of billing, and an actual Invoice that can be submitted for recompense either to a another company or internally

– Ability to set budget limits, akin to what you can do to Google Adwords. 

– Alerting mechanisms to SMS when budgets near tolerance levels

– Ability to centrally track usage data so that chargeaback mechanisms can cleanly be built and used

There are numerous threads on the Amazon Web Service Community forum asking for hard copy invoices . Amazon does provide a page for tax help but its not that helpful 😉

Just some of the things floating around on the thread:

“Sounds silly, isnt’t it? But really, you can shake your head as long as you want, but tax authorities will not accept an invoice which does not state both partie’s VAT-ID number (here in italy, but its the same all over europe). 
If i go to dinner with my clients, the waiter will bring the bill in a carbon copy chemical paper. I HAVE to write my VAT-ID and full company name on it. 
Only THEN, he separates the first from the second sheet of paper, one stays in his records, one in my. 

If they check my books and find an invoice or bill which is not complaint to the formal requirements of having VAT-ID of both parties, they will not accept it and make you pay a fine. Its silly to discuss about the meaning of this, you would have to listen to a very long story about what cross-checks they do with these VAT-IDs. 

Any way, it’s not necessary that you send me a printed invoice, i can print it myself. But IT IS NECESSARY, that the invoice states clearly: 

name, address and VAT-ID of the seller 
name, address and VAT-ID of the purchaser 
description of goods and services 
invoice date, invoice number 

if any of these things are missing, the sheet of paper simply is not an invoice and trying to book it as an expense is a violation of law. 

Currently we are not able to detract AWS expenses of a few 100 US$/month due to these limitations.”

Reply to this post:

“In Czech it is even worse … we have to have hard copy with hand-writen _signature_ to be valid for tax authorities. Problems implications are then quite clear. Silly, but real in Czech. Another more detail, we can not add dinner with customer to our taxes. It has to be paid from the company net profit. “

Another example Reply:

“The same here in germany, we want to start using AWS for some projects but without a proper invoice our accounting will not give us a “go”. 

If this won’t change within this month we will either continue to work with dedicated server networks or might try the google appspot. 

Thats really a shame, because amazon does obviously know how to write correct invoices for 

I believe that this is probably tax related, with Amazon not wanting to amass taxes for Regional entities that would be liable for country specific tax, but its a great hole right now and I don’t have much doubt that it stops further adoption of the services themselves as organisational procedures are pretty inflexible when dealing with these issues.

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2 thoughts on “Is billing Amazon’s Achilles heel ?

  1. Actually I think is more serious than that. The document that they call invoice is not an invoice at all. It doesn´t say invoice anyware so it can´t be used for accounting legal purposes.

  2. Old thread, but the same problem today. I am trying to figure out if a Romanian company can buy something from and, so far I can understand, the answer would be: yes, it can (having a credit card is enough), but it cant prove the expenses in a legal way!
    Their invoice is actually not an invoice – for crying out loud, it’s an ORDER, NOT an invoice, it says so on their so-called “invoice”. When I asked their customer service if I could at least get an invoice with “invoice” printed somewhere on it, I’ve got a funny answer – that I can access the invoice in my orders page; which of course is a round way to say “We cant help you, so we will pretend we wouldn’t understand the question”.
    Yeah, and their motto seams to be “Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.” Talking about ironic…

    So, you can buy anything from Amazon as long as your a person, but not a company. Weird way of running a bussiness…

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