Purchase Orders vs Invoices: 4 Key Differences Merchants Should Know

Most businesses maintain good record-keeping practices to track the value of their company assets. Most businesses prefer payment terms on sales to get money in a timely fashion. Yet for many business owners, the similarities between purchase orders and invoices end there.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A poor understanding of the business forms and payment methods kicks many companies when they’re down. A good understanding gives companies a searchlight to point them in the right direction.

Let’s explore the key differences between purchase orders vs invoices.

1. Purpose

Purchase orders and invoices both serve important financial roles in the business world. The purpose of purchase orders is to document and legally bind a business to receive goods or services from a vendor. This document acts as the terms of sale given to the vendor before they ship the goods or services.

An invoice is a payment record once the goods or services are received. It includes the details of the purchase order, an itemized statement of goods or services purchased, and the corresponding amounts due. Both purchase orders and invoices are essential financial documents for any company and serve distinct purposes.

2. Contents

Purchase orders and invoices contain different types of information. A purchase order contains detailed information about the items that are being purchased. This includes the description, quantity, unit price, terms, associated taxes, and delivery dates.

It also includes payment information. This can include the method of payment, expected payment date, and delivery address.

An invoice is a formal request for payment from the buyer by the seller once the goods or services have been delivered. It contains all the details of the purchase. This includes the items purchased, the date they were shipped, the payment method, and the total payable amount.

View this site for extra insights about purchase orders and invoices. Both purchase orders and invoices are necessary when performing standard business tasks and ensuring an accurate procurement process.

3. Timing

The timing of purchase orders and invoices is an important consideration. Purchase orders generally happen prior to invoices, as the purchase order serves as a guarantee for the payment of goods and services. Companies will issue purchase orders as soon as they have made agreements with suppliers.

4. Signing

Signing these documents is sometimes necessary to make them legally binding. It’s important to include a signature from both parties. Signing the document is a way to verify that the terms and conditions stated in the document have been accepted.

Purchase orders come with signature requirements to reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions. The purchaser needs to sign the purchase order to agree to the terms. The seller needs to sign the invoice to indicate that they have received the agreed-upon payment for the goods and services. 

Differentiating Purchase Orders vs Invoices

Understanding the differences between purchase orders vs invoices can help merchants ensure accuracy in their records. This will help them maintain successful vendor and customer relationships. 

To ensure that a merchant’s financial operations run smoothly and their business stays compliant, they must make sure they are aware of these four disparities. If merchants have any further questions or want to learn more, they should consult an experienced accountant or bookkeeper.

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