Accounts payable vs. Accounts Receivable

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The accounts payable is a ledger list of a company, lists its short-term liability; obligations to suppliers and money owed creditors. Accounts receivable are funds that the company expects it to receive from customers or partners. AR is listed on the balance sheet as a current asset.

Potential investors and lenders look at AR and AP to assess a company’s financial health. Income is vital, but so is prudent spending to grow and retain customers. Neglecting to manage either of these aspects can negatively impact your credit score and eventually your business’ stability.

What is Accounts Payable (AP) and How Can It Help You?

An organization’s accounts payables are the amounts it owes suppliers and other creditors. These amounts include items and services that were purchased and invoiced. AP does NOT include long-term debt such as a mortgage or payroll. However, it does include long-term debt payments.

Receiving an invoice is usually the first step in recording accounts payable (AP). This is based on the terms agreed upon by both parties when the transaction was initiated. A valid bill for goods or services is received by the finance team and recorded as a journal entry. It can then be posted to the general ledger as an expense. The balance lists the total amount of accounts due but does not include individual transactions.

Once the authorized approver has signed off on the expense, payment is made per the terms of the contract. For example, net-30 or net-60 days, the accounting team records it as paid.
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AP departments are responsible for processing expense reports and invoices, and ensuring payments are made. A well-trained AP team can keep supplier relationships positive by making sure that vendor information is up-to-date, bills are paid on time, and keeping vendors informed. This team can help save money by taking advantage of discounts and payment terms that are favorable to the company. Strong AP practices contribute to business success by ensuring accurate cash forecasts, minimizing fraud and errors, and generating reports that can be used by business leaders and other third parties.

What is Accounts Receivable (AR), and How Does It Work?

Customers owe funds for services or products that were invoiced. The balance sheet lists all accounts receivable as current assets. It also includes invoices clients owe for work or items they have received on credit.

Vendors bill customers when they provide services or products to their customers according to terms that are mutually agreed upon when a contract or purchase order is issued. The terms typically range from net 30, which is when customers agree to pay invoices within thirty days, to net 60, or even net 90. This allows companies to sign a contract. A deposit may be required for large orders. This is especially true if the product has been made specifically for you. A portion of the fees charged by services firms is often billed upfront.

After a company has delivered goods or services to a client, the AR team invoicing the customer records the amount as an account receivable and notifies the terms.

The team records the payment as an invoice deposit if the client pays by the agreement. After that, the account becomes non-recoverable. The AR or collections team will send a dunning notice to the client if the client fails to pay in full. This letter may contain a copy of the original invoice as well as any late fees.

Companies can increase their day payables by automating emailing customers about past invoices and asking for immediate payment. For more information on each customer, invoice, due date, and amount due, business leaders can drill down to any account or all accounts. You should be able to exclude customers with extended terms from collection emails.

Key differences between accounts payable and accounts receivable

CFOs must ensure that accounts payable and receivable are separated. The person responsible for entering invoices cannot be the one responsible for paying bills. Some firms prefer to have one AR team member acknowledge receipt of customer payments, while another posts those payments to their general ledger. On the AP side, one team member can approve invoices, and another may trigger payments.

Auditors use different methods to assess the effectiveness of accounts receivable and account payable safeguards. Auditors often look for evidence of quantity errors and, in rare cases, unethical behavior by the vendor when they test AP. The supplier could have incorrectly or intentionally billed for more products than they delivered.

Auditors will look at accounts past due for more than 120 days to determine if they are receivable. Companies may need to adjust their expectations at that point. Leaders who decide that the client is unable or unwilling to pay the amount owed must inform finance. Finance can then take the AR amount and charge it as an expense.
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Your business will issue an invoice for every sale or purchase. The finance team will note what amount is due to you in accounts receivable if you have provided the service or product. You’ll need to note the amount in accounts payable if you are paying the invoice.

AR is an asset as you are relying on the money being received within the timeframe that was established when the sale was initiated. AP is a liability as you must pay that amount within a specified timeframe.

These two functions must be kept separate from a leadership perspective. They should remain in the hands and control of different departments or employees. The American Institute of CPAs views the separation of duties as a fundamental accounting principle. It is essential for any business to maintain internal control, and reduce the risk of fraud.

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