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In today’s cutting edge competition where information is required on your fingertips, Accounts Payable--AP management is one of the most critical tasks for businesses. Lack of it can affect your cash saving policies, vendor relationships as well as cost your working capital, which will result in a reduction in your overall profit. AP is defined in Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary as: a liability to a creditor, carried on open account, usually for purchases of goods and services. When a company orders and receives goods (or services) in advance of paying for them, we say that the company is purchasing the goods on account or on credit. The supplier (or vendor) of the goods on credit is also referred to as a creditor. If the company receiving the goods does not sign a promissory note, the vendor's bill or invoice will be recorded by the company in its liability account AP or Trade Payables. As is expected for a liability account, AP will normally have a credit balance. Hence, when a vendor invoice is recorded, AP will be credited and another account must be debited (as required by double-entry accounting). When an AP is paid, it will be debited and Cash will be credited. Therefore, the credit balance in AP should be equal to the amount of vendor invoices that have been recorded but have not yet been paid. Under the accrual method of accounting, the company receiving goods or services on credit must report the liability no later than the date they were received. The same date is used to record the debit entry to an expense or asset account as appropriate. Hence, accountants say that under the accrual method of accounting expenses are reported when they are incurred (not when they are paid). AP can also refer to the person or staff that processes vendor invoices and pays the company's bills. That's why a supplier who hasn't received payment from a customer will phone and ask to speak with "AP."
The decision of outsourcing AP services can be of great help for your business in optimizing the working capital. AP is money owed by a business to its suppliers shown as a liability on a company's balance sheet. It is distinct from notes payable liabilities, which are debts created by formal legal instrument documents. Payables are not limited to corporations. At the household level, people are also subject to bill payment for goods or services provided to them by creditors. For example, the phone company, the gas company and the cable company are types of creditors. Each one of these creditors provides a service first and then bills the customer after the fact. The payable is essentially a short-term IOU from a customer to the creditor. Each demands payment for goods or services rendered and must be paid accordingly. If people or companies don't pay their bills, they are considered to be in default. An AP is recorded in the Account Payable sub-ledger at the time an invoice is vouched for payment. Vouchered, or vouched, means that an invoice is approved for payment and has been recorded in the General Ledger or AP sub-ledger as an outstanding, or open, liability because it has not been paid. Payables are often categorized as Trade Payables, payables for the purchase of physical goods that are recorded in Inventory, and Expense Payables, payables for the purchase of goods or services that are expensed. Common examples of Expense Payables are advertising, travel, entertainment, office supplies and utilities. A/P is a form of credit that suppliers offer to their customers by allowing them to pay for a product or service after it has already been received. Suppliers offer various payment terms for an invoice. Payment terms may include the offer of a cash discount for paying an invoice within a defined number of days. For example, 2%, Net 30 terms mean that the payer will deduct 2% from the invoice if payment is made within 30 days. If the payment is made on Day 31 then the full amount is paid. In households, AP are ordinarily bills from the electric company, telephone company, cable television or satellite dishservice, newspaper subscription, and other such regular services. Householders usually track and pay on a monthly basis by hand using cheques, credit cards or internet banking. In a business, there is usually a much broader range of services in the A/P file, and accountants or bookkeepers usually use accounting software to track the flow of money into this liability account when they receive invoices and out of it when they make payments. Increasingly, large firms are using specialized automation solutions (commonly called ePayables) to automate the paper and manual elements of processing an organization's invoices. Commonly, a supplier will ship a product, issue an invoice, and collect payment later, which describes a cash conversion cycle, a period of time during which the supplier has already paid for raw materials but hasn't been paid in return by the final customer. When the invoice is received by the purchaser, it is matched to the packing slip and purchase order, and if all is in order, the invoice is paid. This is referred to as the three-way match. The three-way match can slow down the payment process, so the method may be modified. For example, three-way matching may be limited solely to large-value invoices, or the matching is automatically approved if the received quantity is within a certain percentage of the amount authorized in the purchase order.
The AP process involves reviewing an enormous amount of detail to ensure that only legitimate and accurate amounts are entered in the accounting system. Much of the information that needs to be reviewed will be found in the following documents: purchase orders issued by the company, receiving reports issued by the company, invoices from the company's vendors, contracts and other agreements. The accuracy and completeness of a company's financial statements are dependent on the AP process. A well-run AP process will include: the timely processing of accurate and legitimate vendor invoices, accurate recording in the appropriate general ledger accounts, and the accrual of obligations and expenses that have not yet been completely processed. The efficiency and effectiveness of the AP process will also affect the company's cash position, credit rating, and relationships with its suppliers. The AP process or function is immensely important since it involves nearly all of a company's payments outside of payroll. The AP process might be carried out by an AP department in a large corporation, by a small staff in a medium-sized company, or by a bookkeeper or perhaps the owner in a small business. Regardless of the company's size, the mission of AP is to pay only the company's bills and invoices that are legitimate and accurate. This means that before a vendor's invoice is entered into the accounting records and scheduled for payment, the invoice must reflect: what the company had ordered, what the company has received, the proper unit costs, calculations, totals, terms, etc. To safeguard a company's cash and other assets, the AP process should have internal controls. A few reasons for internal controls are to: prevent paying a fraudulent invoice, prevent paying an inaccurate invoice, prevent paying a vendor invoice twice, be certain that all vendor invoices are accounted for. Periodically companies should seek professional assistance to improve its internal controls. The AP process must also be efficient and accurate in order for the company's financial statements to be accurate and complete. Because of double-entry accounting an omission of a vendor invoice will actually cause two accounts to report incorrect amounts. For example, if a repair expense is not recorded in a timely manner: the liability will be omitted from the balance sheet, and the repair expense will be omitted from the income statement. If the vendor invoice for a repair is recorded twice, there will be two problems as well: the liabilities will be overstated, and repairs expense will be overstated. In other words, without the AP process being up-to-date and well run, the company's management and other users of the financial statements will be receiving inaccurate feedback on the company's performance and financial position. A poorly run AP process can also mean missing a discount for paying some bills early. If vendor invoices are not paid when they become due, supplier relationships could be strained. This may lead to some vendors demanding cash on delivery. If that were to occur it could have extreme consequences for a cash-strapped company. Just as delays in paying bills can cause problems, so could paying bills too soon. If vendor invoices are paid earlier than necessary, there may not be cash available to pay some other bills by their due dates.
The key AP accounting tasks are as follows: 1) Invoice verification. The first step in accounting for AP is to ensure that all incoming invoices from suppliers are valid. There are two ways to do so. One option is to have an authorized employee approve each invoice. The other option is to compare the information on each invoice to the authorizing purchase order and receiving documentation, which is called three-way matching. Since both options are labor-intensive, it is customary to not verify invoices having small dollar totals. 2) Invoice recordation. Once an invoice has been verified, the accountant enters the amount owed in the AP software. The information entered includes the supplier name, invoice date, and invoice amount. The related accounting entry generated by the accounting software is always a credit to the AP account. The offsetting debit may be either to an expense or asset account. 3) Invoice payment. When an invoice is due for payment, the accountant sets it up for payment through the accounting software. This typically means that a preliminary check register is run and reviewed to ensure that all items scheduled for payment should actually be paid. If so, check stock is loaded into a printer and checks are printed. Supporting information is attached to each check and then forwarded to a check signer, who reviews each packet of information for errors and then signs the checks. An alternative is to send electronic payments directly into the bank accounts of suppliers. Following payment, all payment information is stapled together and filed by supplier name.
AP analysis is used to extract several types of information from the detailed AP records. These analyses are as follows: 1) Discounts taken. Examine the payment records to see if the company is taking all early payment discounts offered by suppliers. These discounts typically have a high effective interest rate, and so are well worth the effort. 2) Late payment fees. See if the company is routinely incurring late payment fees. This situation most commonly arises when the business does not have sufficient cash to meet its payment obligations, but could also be due to process failures within the accounting department. 3) Payable turnover. Divide total annual purchases by the average total payables balance to arrive at the payables turnover rate. Then divide the turnover rate into 365 days to determine the average number of days that the company is taking to pay its bills. If these days of payables figure is declining over time, the company is wasting a valuable source of cash. Possible resolutions are to ensure that the accounting staffs does not pay invoices early, and that payment terms negotiated with suppliers are not excessively short. 4) Duplicate payments. Research the records of earlier payments to see if any invoices were paid more than once. If so, this points toward a problem with identifying these invoices in the AP system. A further step is to contact suppliers to obtain repayment of the duplicate payments. 5) Compare to employee addresses. Compare supplier addresses to employee addresses. A match could indicate a fraud situation, or at least a related party purchase that may need to be disclosed to management. Conduct these same analyses whenever the company acquires another business, to see if the payables situation at the acquiree can be improved upon. If so, this can create a synergy that can save money for the acquirer. 7) The payables manager can also discuss the results of this analysis with the purchasing manager. A possible goal to offer the purchasing manager is longer payment terms from suppliers. Doing so increases the working capital funds available to the business. A key outcome of AP analysis is to alter payables processes to reduce the risk that any flaws found can recur in the future. Doing so can improve overall corporate profitability by avoiding excess expenditures.
Let us give you some understanding on how to reconcile AP? Before closing the books at the end of each reporting period, the accounting staff must verify that the detailed total of all AP outstanding matches the payables account balance stated in the general ledger. Doing so ensures that the amount of AP reported in the balance sheet is correct. This is called AP reconciliation. The AP reconciliation process encompasses the following steps: 1) Compare the ending AP account balance in the general ledger for the immediately preceding period to the aged AP detail report as of the end of the same period. If these numbers do not match, you will have to reconcile earlier periods before attempting to reconcile the current period. If the variance is immaterial, it may be acceptable to proceed with the reconciliation for the current period. 2) Review the AP general ledger account to see if any journal entries were made to the account during the current reporting period. If so, document these items in a reconciliation spreadsheet. 3) Print the ending aged AP report for the current reporting period. Enter the total amount outstanding from this report on the reconciliation spreadsheet. At this point, the reconciliation should be complete. If there is still a variance, and it is not a variance that occurred in a prior period, consider the following additional reconciliation steps: a) Verify that the AP journal was properly posted to the general ledger. b) Verify that the aged AP report was printed after all posting was completed. c) Verify that the general ledger is set to the correct reporting period. This reconciliation process can be a difficult one when it is being performed for the first time. However, once all errors have been spotted and corrections made, it is usually relatively easy to update the reconciliation document in subsequent reporting periods. Do note that the information given in this paragraph is only for your understanding and would vary based on the need of each project.
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