An exchange of services contract is an agreement that involves goods or services instead of money. It is also referred to as a barter agreement, and even though no cash is exchanged, it is wise to draft a formal contract so that there are no misunderstandings about anyone's responsibilities.

What to Include in a Barter Agreement

Most people engage in a barter arrangement without any type of written agreement. However, this can potentially cause problems. It's helpful to document exactly what goods or services will be included in the agreement, and who is expected to provide them. If a service is involved, the contract should list the specific job, hours, or tasks to be performed. When goods are being traded, you will need to list the items, the quantity, and their condition.

Many people may be unaware of this, but in some situations, the goods and services that are included in a barter agreement may be taxable. This is especially true when businesses barter. If a business pays a contractor with items or services in exchange for the services performed by the contractor, it is considered payment. For the contractor, it is income that must be reported on their annual tax return.

Service Agreements

When services are used as a barter item, a service agreement should be used. This is also referred to as a general service contract, consulting services agreement, or service level agreement. It documents the terms of the service that will be provided by one party in exchange for some type of compensation by the other.

Service agreements should be used by service providers whenever they plan to offer service to a client because it ensures that they are paid as agreed. Customers also benefit from service agreements because it documents the amount of compensation or barter items to be exchanged along with the provider's duties. If required, it also protects the customer's confidentiality.

When writing a service agreement, include the following:

  • The names of the customer and service provider, or the two parties involved in a barter.
  • The contact information of both parties such as addresses and phone numbers.
  • The specific services to be provided, with detailed descriptions of each.
  • The terms of payment, such as pay rate or which items will be included in the barter, along with due dates and penalties for failure to deliver.
  • Terms regarding confidentiality and non-competition, if applicable.

Is Bartering Right For You?

There are many reasons why bartering can be beneficial. For one thing, it keeps you from spending your working capital when you need to purchase goods or services for your business. Bartering, also referred to as in-kind trade, can give you an outlet for excess inventory that may otherwise sit unused.

Here are some things to remember while making barter arrangements:

  • Do not attempt to arrange a barter with items of substandard value. You need to offer something that other businesses will want. If you have “junk” to get rid of, sell them at auction instead.
  • A barter arrangement is not a way to get a bargain; the trade should be arranged based on the items' retail prices.
  • Barter agreements work best when there are few limitations, such as offering a service at non-peak times. Terms should be the same as given to paying customers.

Finding a Good Trade Partner

When considering a potential partner for bartering, there are a few things to consider:

  • Make sure the items or service being offered to you in trade are truly of value to you and your business.
  • Ensure that the items or service are of good quality.
  • Find out if there will be someone from the other party to contact easily in case problems arise, especially if you're not getting your items or service right away.

Best Practices For Bartering

Any business wishing to arrange a good barter agreement while preserving its reputation in the industry and community should adhere to good etiquette during the process. Remember these tips:

  • It is not typically appropriate to arrange a barter with a business you are already purchasing goods or services from with cash payment.
  • You may, however, offer barter arrangements to your customers.
  • Do not exaggerate the value or quality of your product while bartering.
  • If you need to opt out of the barter agreement, be sure to honor the terms of the agreement in a fair manner, and give sufficient notice.

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