Abstract We present a new formulation of the multipolar expansion of an exact boundary condition for the wave equation, which is truncated at the quadrupolar order. Using an auxiliary function, that is the solution of a wave equation on the sphere defining the outer boundary of the numerical grid, the absorbing boundary condition is simply written as a perturbation of the usual Sommerfeld radiation boundary condition. It is very easily implemented using spectral methods in spherical coordinates. Numerical tests of the method show that very good accuracy can be achieved and that this boundary condition has the same efficiency for dipolar and quadrupolar waves as the usual Sommerfeld boundary condition for monopolar ones. This is of particular importance for the simulation of gravitational waves, which have dominant quadrupolar terms, in General Relativity.