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What is Invoice Matching?

What is Invoice Matching?

Invoice Matching Definition

Invoice matching is a critical process in the accounts payable department of many businesses, especially larger ones. It involves comparing invoice data to the corresponding purchase order (PO) and, if applicable, the goods receipt note or packing slip. This process ensures that a business only pays for goods or services that are ordered and received.

Types of Invoice Matching

There are typically three types of invoice matching:

  • 2 Way Matching: This involves comparing the invoice details with the PO. Key elements like price, quantity, and description are checked to ensure they match. If there are discrepancies, the invoice is flagged for further review.
  • 3 Way Matching: The three way matching process extends the two-way matching process by also comparing the details on the goods receipt note or packing slip. In a 3 way match, a third document confirms that the goods or services were received. This step is crucial for verifying that the quantities billed match the quantities received.
  • 4 Way Matching: Some companies add a layer of invoice match verification, particularly when the quality or condition of goods is critical. This involves matching the invoice with the PO, the goods receipt note, and an additional document, like an inspection report, confirming that the goods meet the required specifications or service delivery standards.

What is the difference between manual invoice matching and automated invoice matching?

Manual invoice matching and automated invoice matching represent two different approaches to the same task, each with its characteristics. 

Manual matching involves personnel physically reviewing and comparing each invoice against corresponding purchase orders and receipts, a process that can be time-consuming and prone to human error, especially with large volumes of invoices. 

Automated invoice matching uses software to compare invoice data against purchase orders and receipts. Accounting software, such as an automated invoice matching software, helps with touchless invoice processing.

How Does Invoice Matching Work?

Here's a breakdown of how invoice matching works:

  • Receipt of Invoice: The process begins when the accounts payable department receives an invoice from a vendor. This invoice details the goods or services provided, along with their costs.
  • Verification of Invoice Details: The invoice is first reviewed for basic accuracy - ensuring that it contains essential details like the vendor's name, invoice date, invoice number, item descriptions, quantities, prices, and total amount due.
  • Matching the Invoice to a Purchase Order (PO): In a 2-way match, the invoice is compared to the corresponding PO. The PO is an official document issued by the buyer to the seller, detailing the types and quantities of goods or services to be purchased and the agreed-upon prices. Key elements such as item descriptions, quantities, and prices are checked to ensure they match the PO. Discrepancies can lead to the invoice being flagged for further review.
  • Goods Receipt Matching (If Applicable): In a 3-way match, the process includes an additional step of matching the invoice to the goods receipt note or packing slip. This document is issued when the goods are received or the service is rendered, confirming the receipt and the condition of the goods. The accounts payable team checks if the quantities and conditions of goods or services received match what was ordered (as per the PO) and billed (as per the invoice).
  • Additional Verification (In 4-way matching): Some businesses also employ a four-way match, particularly for critical or high-value purchases. This involves an additional step of comparing the invoice against another document, such as an inspection report, to verify that the goods meet specified quality standards or that services meet the contractual requirements.
  • Approval for Payment: If the invoice successfully passes these matching processes, it is approved for payment. The accounts payable team will schedule the payment as per the net terms agreed upon by the vendor.
  • Handling Discrepancies: If discrepancies are found at any stage of the matching process, the invoice is typically put on hold. The accounts payable department will need to contact the vendor for a revised invoice or to resolve any differences, such as incorrect quantities or prices.
  • Record Keeping: Once the invoice is approved and paid, records of the transaction, including the matched documents, are kept for accounting and financial audit purposes.

Benefits of Invoice Matching

  • Overpayments and Fraud: By matching invoices to purchase orders and goods receipt notes, businesses can ensure they are only paying for goods or services that were ordered and received. This helps prevent overpayments because of billing errors and reduces the risk of paying fraudulent invoices.
  • Financial Accuracy: Matched invoices are essential for reliable financial reporting. It ensures that expenditures are recorded correctly in the financial statements, maintaining the integrity of the financial data.
  • Vendor Relationships: Consistent and accurate invoice processing leads to timely payments, which is crucial for maintaining good relationships with suppliers. This can be beneficial in negotiations and can lead to better terms or early payment discounts in the future.
  • Compliance and Audit: Many businesses are subject to regulatory requirements regarding their financial practices. Proper invoice matching helps ensure compliance with these regulations. It also prepares the business for audits, as well-organized financial records can make the audit process smoother.
  • Streamlines the Accounts Payable Process: Efficient invoice matching can streamline the entire accounts payable process, reducing the time and resources needed to process payments. This can lead to cost savings and allow staff to focus on more strategic tasks.
  • Discrepancies Identification: Early detection of vendor invoice discrepancies, such as incorrect pricing, partial payment, duplicate invoices, human error, invoice fraud, or terms, allows businesses to resolve issues promptly with suppliers. This approach can prevent larger issues down the line.
  • Cash Flow Management: Knowing exactly what is owed and when it is due helps in better cash flow management. Businesses can plan their finances more effectively, avoiding unexpected expenditures.
  • Decision Making: The data collected through invoice matching can be used for analytics, offering insights into spending patterns, supplier performance, and potential areas for cost savings.
  • Budget Control: By ensuring that only valid, approved invoices are paid, invoice matching helps businesses stay within budget and control unauthorized spending.
  • Duplicate Payments: Automated invoice matching systems can detect if an invoice has already been submitted and paid, reducing the risk of duplicate payments.

Invoice Matching vs. Cash Application

Invoice matching and cash application are two distinct yet important processes in the realm of accounting and financial management, serving different purposes and functions within an organization.

Invoice Matching is a critical step in the accounts payable process. This process is primarily concerned with ensuring the accuracy and legitimacy of invoices received from vendors. It involves comparing the invoice details against the purchase order (PO) and, if applicable, the goods receipt note or packing slip. 

The key elements of an invoice matching process include quantities, prices, item descriptions, and terms. This comparison can be done in a two-way (invoice and PO), three-way (invoice, PO, and goods receipt), or four-way (adding an inspection report or other document) manner. The primary aim of invoice matching is to verify that the company is billed correctly and only pays for goods or services that were ordered and received. This process helps prevent overpayments, avoids paying for undelivered goods, and ensures compliance with contractual agreements.

Cash Application is a part of the accounts receivable process. This procedure involves matching incoming payments to their corresponding invoices. When a customer makes a payment, the company needs to determine which invoice or invoices the payment is for and apply the payment correctly to those invoices. 

The goal here is to accurately and efficiently update the company's accounts receivable ledger, reflecting that the invoice has been paid, partially paid, or overpaid. This process is crucial for maintaining accurate financial records and for effective cash flow management. By properly applying payments to the correct accounts and invoices, businesses can clearly understand which customers still owe money, which helps in managing their finances and pursuing outstanding debts if necessary.

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