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Mary Schaeffer
Mary Schaeffer
Control Receipt of Invoices Effectively

Here’s how.

August 6, 2009
by Mary Schaeffer

Getting invoices paid while maintaining tight controls is crucial to any organization. The receipt of the invoice, a very basic function at every company, has come under attack. No longer is this simply a mail function with accounting professionals focused on educating the mailroom personnel. Advances in technology and the high cost of postage have turned this basic function on its head.

Checklist

Here’s a best practice checklist that all organizations can used to control the receipt of invoices effectively.

  1. Have all invoices mailed to one location, ideally accounts payable. This gets the invoices logged in, limits the who’s-got-the-invoice games, puts you in the best position to earn as many early payment discounts as possible and in general, leads to a more efficient invoice handling process.
  2. Contact any vendor not mailing invoices to the correct location and provide the correct mail-to address.
  3. Set up a dedicated fax line to receive faxed invoices. It should be in a relatively secure location in the accounts payable department and used for nothing but the receipt of invoices. No one other than those designated in your policies and procedures should be permitted to take documents from that machine.
  4. Set up a separate e-mail account for the receipt of invoices. It should only be used for the receipt of invoices and not for personal e-mail. The address should be something like invoices@xyzcompany.com not a personal e-mail address. Someone should be assigned to check the accounts several times a day. When the person assigned that task is out of the office, the responsibility should go to someone else just as opening the mail would be.
  5. Write up instructions for your welcome packet that includes directions on how to mail, fax or e-mail invoices. This information should also be distributed to current vendors.
  6. Forget the “Only pay from an original invoice” control. It doesn’t work. With today’s technology there can be numerous “original invoices.”
  7. Encourage faxed and e-mailed invoices. Since they appear to be a fact of life, you may as well get the most out of them. By receiving them earlier in the process, you will have more time to handle the invoices, resolve discrepancies, and hopefully earn all the early payment discounts to which you are entitled.

Conclusion

By utilizing the above best practice checklist, your company will maintain tighter controls as well as ensure that everyone in the firm is on the same page.

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Mary S. Schaeffer is the author of more than a dozen business books including Controller and CFO’s Guide to Accounts Payable. She is currently working on a book about fraud. (2007 John Wiley & Sons). She serves as the editorial director of Accounts Payable Now & Tomorrow, a newsletter for professionals interested in payment issues, writes a free weekly ezine e-AP News, speaks at accounts payable seminars and conferences and directs the organization’s consulting practice.