What is an Invoice?
Fundamentally, an invoice is a document that details and explains a transaction that occurs between two parties. It explains what was exchanged, whether it’s goods, services, or money. An invoice can detail a single transaction, or it can summarize multiple smaller transactions. An invoice simplifies the payment process for these smaller transactions and organizes these transactions within one document.
Accurate invoicing allows businesses to track all transactions, expenses, and inventory. An invoice contains all of the information regarding a transaction between two parties, and it can be easily referenced in the event of a disagreement or missing payment. Invoicing helps businesses organize and record these transactions, and invoices can be distributed across different branches of staff. This ease of communication leads to higher efficiency and productivity within a company.
Settle knows how time-consuming invoicing can be. Our goal is to streamline the invoicing process using detailed, intuitive, and accessible financial tools. We help you pay and factor invoices to create an organized, accessible, and clear transaction for brands and vendors alike.
How Do Invoices Differ From Other Common Financial Documents?
An Invoice is Not a Bill
Bills are used to collect immediate payments from customers, while invoices document transactions and bills that will occur at a later date. Invoices document and display a transaction. Invoices and bills are similar, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. However, invoices and bills are two distinct financial documents—bills technically require immediate payment, while invoices can be paid at some future date.
An Invoice is Not a Receipt
Receipts are a concise record of a completed transaction. Invoices indicate the terms of a future payment, while receipts confirm that a payment has been fulfilled. Receipts are less detailed than invoices, and the two financial documents are not interchangeable. Often, a receipt will be issued once an invoice has been paid, acknowledging that money has been exchanged.
An Invoice is Not a Purchase Order
Although invoices are commonly mistaken for purchase orders, the two documents serve different purposes. A purchase order describes the terms of an order that is going to be delivered in the future. Businesses that submit purchase orders commit to buying these products or services in the future, but they have not yet been delivered. Meanwhile, invoices are typically issued to request payment after a product or service has been delivered. Purchase orders may have one or several associated invoices for payment once an order has been fulfilled. A purchase order is usually made by the buyer, while an invoice is most often created by the seller.
What Is the Purpose of an Invoice?
Practically speaking, an invoice helps one business pay another under previously agreed upon terms, including price, quantity of product, and/or duration of service. It provides a documented record of a transaction for both businesses to refer to. Functionally, invoices track what one party owes the other party, enabling an exchange of clear and concise information. Both parties can use invoices for bookkeeping purposes, ensuring that complete transparency in the transaction process.
Additionally, businesses use invoices for internal clarity--especially when it comes to creating financial documents such as annual revenue statements. Companies use invoices to relay information surrounding the status of their goods and monetary assets, including keeping track of stock. For businesses with high volumes of transactions, the information gathered while invoicing is essential. When information is abundant, a lack of organization can have catastrophic consequences. Proper invoicing can ensure that businesses can keep track of all of their transactions, and maintain a stable and accountable system of distribution
What are the Main Components of an Invoice?
The Invoice Number
When two parties work together regularly, a large amount of invoices are generated. Invoice numbers allow both parties to organize their invoices and keep them easily accessible. Using invoice numbers also improves efficiency, especially when making payments. Invoice numbers help vendors and businesses remain clear on which invoices have and have not been paid. They’re also used during reconciliation, the process of matching incoming and outgoing invoices to bank statements. Reconciliation is important to ensure vendors have been paid what they’re owed, especially in the event of discounts, bank fees, or delays. This is why each invoice should be given a number, even if it’s the first in a series or a one-off charge.
Invoice numbers are also essential if a company is audited because invoice discrepancies can easily be misconstrued as a business misreporting its income. Invoice numbers facilitate clear communication between vendors and businesses, ensuring both parties have accurate payment information in their books.
The Sent and Due Dates
Sent and due dates are essential parts of an invoice that primarily help the transactions stay organized. Parties can clearly communicate payment deadlines and how long it has been since the invoice was sent from the initial party clearly when sent and due dates are used.
When sent and due dates are used, they ensure that both parties are on the same page about when payment is due. Waiting for an extensive amount of time for the payment to clear can be frustrating for both parties, and so having preset dates in the invoice to establish expectations for the timeline is essential.
The Addresses and Names
Names and addresses of both parties are essential when creating an invoice. A company will provide a delivery address and a potential return address for both parties when exchanging physical goods. Having the addresses on hand makes tax form distribution that much easier. This is essential information that should appear on every invoice.
A line item notates each product or service added to an invoice alongside relevant rates, quantities, and prices. While clearly stating each item being purchased, a business records the cost per unit, the number of units being sold, and the transaction’s subtotal. Tax and shipping are then added, and the total is calculated.
Line items allow invoices to be detailed and specific so businesses can preempt any future miscommunication. By comparing line items against an initial purchase order, businesses can ensure each product or service has been delivered and billed.
How to Streamline the Invoicing Process
Settle has experienced firsthand how tedious paying vendors can be. Our platform is designed with both payers and vendors in mind, streamlining the invoicing process through state-of-the-art financial tools that seamlessly integrate with your pre-existing billing flow. Instead of wading through massive amounts of invoices yourself, let Settle expedite your billing cycle so you can get back to running your business. Paying and factoring invoices has never been easier.
Check out Settle today.