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What are Accounts Payable? A Comprehensive Guide May 30, 2023

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Like any other responsibility, paying debts and managing accounts payable is crucial to maintaining a healthy financial ecosystem. From small businesses to large corporations, Accounts payable is an unavoidable task that demands attention and strategic handling.

In this blog, we’ll discuss accounts payable, their significance, challenges, and practical strategies to navigate this necessary aspect of financial management.

What is the meaning of Accounts Payable (AP)?

Accounts payable, or AP represents a company’s short-term liabilities, encompassing the invoices owed to suppliers and other businesses for products and services. It is a crucial component in the liabilities section of the balance sheet. AP departments play a crucial role in handling expense reports, and invoices, and facilitating prompt payments.

Accounts payable (AP) are essential components of businesses that operate under the accrual basis of accounting. This accounting method records income and expenses when they are invoiced and paid. In essence, it is the sum of money a business owes to third parties, such as suppliers or vendors, and it is a crucial aspect of the overall accounting function. Whether managed by a dedicated department or a single accounting staff member, accounts payable is critical in tracking and fulfilling payment obligations outside of payroll.

How does the Accounts Payable Process Work?

The scale of an organisation’s accounts payable process workflow depends on the following factors: the number of vendors/service providers, the payment volume, documentation requirements for each transaction, payment terms and discounts, internal control and approval processes, and the level of automation and technology solutions employed.

  1. Invoice Processing: Upon receiving a purchase order, the supplier may generate an invoice based on the purchase order to request payment for the delivered goods or completed services. Once invoices are received, they undergo verification to ensure accuracy, validity, and proper coding for expense categorisation. Invoice processing also involves obtaining necessary approvals and preparing the invoices for payment.
  2. Payment Processing: The payment processing component begins once invoices are processed and approved. This involves scheduling and executing vendor payments based on the agreed-upon terms and payment methods. Payment processing may include issuing checks, initiating electronic fund transfers, or utilising online payment platforms. It also entails tracking payment due dates and ensuring timely payments to avoid penalties or disruptions in vendor relationships.
  3. Vendor Management: Vendor management is essential to the AP process, and it involves establishing and maintaining positive relationships with vendors or suppliers. This includes negotiating payment terms, resolving disputes or discrepancies, and addressing vendor inquiries.
  4. Record Keeping and Reporting: The final component of the AP process involves maintaining accurate records and generating reports. This includes documenting all relevant AP transactions, keeping payment history, and maintaining vendor records. Additionally, regular reporting provides insights into AP performance, outstanding liabilities, cash flow management, and vendor analysis.

The complete cycle of the accounts payable process involves receiving the purchase order (PO) from the purchasing department, validating and comparing it with the vendor’s invoice, and approving the final payment to the vendor.

Why are accounts payable management important?

  • Accounts payable management is crucial in fostering strong relationships and a solid foundation for long-term partnerships with suppliers and vendors by ensuring timely payment of bills and invoices.
  • Effective accounts payable management is essential for businesses to avoid incurring unnecessary costs such as late fees, penalties, and interest charges.
  • The timely processing of all necessary purchases is ensured by effective accounts payable administration, avoiding delays or interruptions in business operations.
  • By leveraging the credit terms offered by vendors, accounts payable management enables businesses to optimise their cash flow.

Accounts Payable vs. Accounts Receivable

In simple terms, accounts payable and accounts receivable are two interconnected aspects of a business’s financial transactions. The amount owed to suppliers by the business is shown in accounts payable, while accounts receivable shows the money owed to the business by customers.

Accounts receivable are considered a current asset, indicating the expected conversion of outstanding payments into cash within a year. Accounts payable, on the other hand, is a current liability that reflects the company’s debts to creditors. Using both v allows for effective cash flow management and provides insights into a company’s financial position.

Accounts payable tracks the business’s outstanding debts, while accounts receivable monitors the payments owed by clients or debtors. Both accounts are recorded on the balance sheet. Accounts receivable records credit-based customer purchases until payment is received; at this point, the payment amount is debited from accounts receivable and credited to the revenue account.

Automation in Accounts Payable Management

Current accounts payable management leverages software automation and intelligent applications to simplify the bill entry process, reduce manual effort, enhance accuracy, and facilitate efficient payment scheduling. AP automation reduces manual effort and costs, providing significant benefits to businesses. It speeds up data entry through automated capture, improves invoice matching and coding accuracy, and streamlines approval routing. By eliminating manual tasks, companies can lower processing costs and scale their AP operations.

Additionally, automating accounts payable helps businesses track invoices from receipt to payment, monitor approval progress, and identify bottlenecks or delays. This visibility enables proactive management, allowing prompt action to resolve issues and maintain a smooth workflow. The detailed data generated offers more profound insights into accounts payable performance, which helps the business to make informed decisions.

Companies implement AP automation software through either cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) or on-premises solutions depending on whether the business prefers to host and control its systems. While the AP process is generally standard, companies may have unique requirements that should be considered to ensure the solution aligns with their workflows, ultimately providing the highest return on investment.

In Australia, some of the top automation software for Accounts Payable include:

  • Xero: Xero offers cloud-based accounting software with AP automation features such as automated invoice processing, bill payment scheduling, and document management.
  • MYOB: MYOB provides accounting software solutions that include AP automation capabilities, allowing for streamlined invoice processing, payment automation, and integration with banking systems.
  • QuickBooks Online: QuickBooks Online offers AP automation features that help businesses streamline invoice processing, automate payment schedules, and track vendor bills and payments.
  • SAP: SAP offers comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with robust Accounts Payable automation capabilities. SAP is known for its enterprise-level solutions and is widely used by larger organisations with complex accounting needs.
  • Freshbooks: Freshbooks is a cloud-based accounting software with AP automation features. Freshbooks mainly caters to small and medium-sized businesses with user-friendly interfaces and simplified accounting processes.

Accounts Payable Management With Team SBA

Streamline your accounts payable process with our AP management services and focus on growing your business. We offer comprehensive AP solutions, including invoice processing, payment management, and accurate reporting. With over 12 years of experience, our team of experienced bookkeepers is well-equipped to handle all your bookkeeping needs. Our team utilises cutting-edge bookkeeping software to ensure precise and efficient financial management. We leverage the latest technology to ensure accuracy, efficiency, and compliance with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) regulations.


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