What is a Purchase Order? Definition and Meaning

what is a po in accounting

If you ship the delivery to the buyer, notify them when you receive the PO. Consider including a tracking number so the buyer can track the shipment online. Automating invoice approvals through a cloud-based AP automation solution like SoftCo can save businesses a significant amount of time and money. It also reduces potential for error by a significant margin, removing the need for manual data entry, printing or scanning. Non-PO invoices are usually generated for goods or supplies purchased under a specified dollar limit.

what is a po in accounting

The PO includes all the details about the transaction and what the buyer expects to receive. Once the seller receives the PO, they have the right to either accept or reject the document. However, once the PO is accepted, it becomes a legally binding contract for both parties involved. When the goods that need to be purchased are agreed upon, the purchase order is created.

The items may be confirmed to be purchased in sets of 10, with a fixed price for each set of items purchased. The difference between a purchase requisition and a purchase order is that the latter acts as a contract between the buyer and the seller. By submitting an order, the buyer is committing to purchasing goods or services for the agreed upon amount.

A purchase order is used by a buyer to place an order and is issued before delivery. For the sake of efficiency and simplicity, companies will also often set a lower cost threshold for issuing a purchase order. For example, your company might decide that it is most efficient if all orders smaller than $500 don’t use a purchase order.

Planned Purchase Orders (PPO)

Read on to learn the ins and outs of purchase orders, how to create them, and the difference between invoices and POs. The contract expenses are matched with the original contract instead of the PO. This is one of the reasons why approval for non-PO invoices often takes longer.

When you receive a PO, prepare the requested products for delivery or pickup, contact the customer, and invoice them. Keep received purchase orders for your records and document the process. Once accepted by the vendor, a purchase order becomes a legally binding contract. If there is not an existing contract that governs the relationship between buyer and seller, the purchase order can take its place.

Non-electronic purchase orders

We’ve got you covered on the Bench Blog, with over 500 in-depth small business finance articles. Any internal expense reimbursements—for travel, educational materials, supplies, entertainment, etc.—are tracked using their own form, usually called a reimbursement request. Making large, important purchase transactions without purchase orders is usually a bad idea. If your accounting solution doesn’t have that option, Shopify has an excellent purchase order template.

what is a po in accounting

First and foremost, blanket purchase orders are sometimes known as “standing orders”. A blanket purchase order (BPO) is the same as a PPO, but in addition to omitting delivery information, a BPO also omits the item quantity and (sometimes) the item price. On the other hand, you may receive POs from your customers, the buyers.

Automating Invoice Approvals

A purchase order is a legal agreement that protects both the buyer and the seller. If there is not an existing contract that governs the relationship between buyer and seller, the purchase order can be used in place of a contract. A retail business may intend to regularly purchase 120 items of a certain type each year to sell. The retail business may establish a PPO with a supplier, including a tentative schedule to order 10 items each month throughout the year.

Because purchase orders and invoices are both legally binding documents that are exchanged between sellers and buyers, it’s not surprising that they’re often mixed up. The two are also connected because a purchase order is often used to create an invoice, as a reference for the goods purchased and their prices. However, each document is used at a different point in the buying process and often used by different people, as well.

  • Purchase orders get around that ambiguity by bringing both parties together in a mutually-binding contract and serving as an on-the-record legal document.
  • As with a PPO, releases against the established BPOs would be required before any purchasing or delivery took place.
  • Similarly for the seller, purchase orders help track inventory, recurring orders, and more.
  • When the supplier receives the PO, they will take the items listed in the PO from their inventory.
  • For most organizations, the purchase order is the second step in the purchase order process.

A purchase order (PO) is a legal document that is created by a buyer and sent to a seller to confirm their intention to purchase products and/or services. Non-PO invoices are often generated for smaller purchases, including regular expenditure, reimbursements for employee expenses, or legally contracted services. The PO invoice contains almost the same details as the purchase order itself, including the amount and the goods required. Since it’s pre-approved, no further approvals are required, and the invoice can be processed quickly.

How to Use a Purchase Order

Small businesses often track purchase orders in an excel spreadsheet and use a basic purchase order form template to manually create the POs. You can download templates for the PO and PO tracker and then customize these to suit your company. In most cases, when a BPO is established with a supplier, a maximum time frame that the BPO will be valid for is determined, alongside a maximum quantity of items that will be ordered within that time frame. In some cases, discounts are provided when certain item quantity thresholds or milestones are passed through multiple releases within the lifespan of the BPO. Thankfully, with all of this supporting terminology out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the different types of purchase orders in depth. Only create a journal entry when you ship the products or when the buyer receives them (depending on the PO terms and conditions).

From an operations standpoint, you can track orders more confidently knowing that your supplier is contractually bound to deliver them at a specific time and date. From an accounting perspective, you can budget confidently knowing that you have a contractually-enforced purchase price. Purchase orders get around that ambiguity by bringing both parties together in a mutually-binding contract and serving as an on-the-record legal document. Once a vendor receives and approves a purchase order, you’re both legally bound to your end of the deal.

Even small businesses can benefit from a PO system because it gives them a centralized place to track what they’re buying, when they’re buying it, and who they are buying it from. Putting a system in place when the company is in its infancy makes it easier to scale processes and systems as the business grows. In essence, CPOs can be considered to be high-level, long-term purchasing agreements established to facilitate ongoing business between a buyer and a supplier. Most notably, the function of a CPO is exclusively to serve as a set of legally binding reference terms, which subsequent POs that reference the CPO will be bound to. When you receive payment from the buyer, credit your accounts receivable account to reverse the original journal entry. After you pay for your order, reverse the original journal entry by debiting your accounts payable account.

This eliminates the need to rely on paper forms, which can easily be lost. Electronic POs make it easier to get the necessary approvals from department heads before making the purchases. Automation makes it possible to match the purchase order to the order delivery to the invoice in a process known as three-way matching. This ensures you’re only paying for goods that were both ordered and received. All purchase orders become legally binding documents once they’ve been confirmed and accepted by the supplier receiving them.

Purchase orders help you better account for all of the goods and services your company has ordered, keep tabs on how you’re paying for them, and track when they’re arriving. But as companies grow and their purchases become more complex, detailed, and urgent, a simple cash-for-goods purchasing system will lead to confusion. Sales orders, on the other hand, are sent by vendors to purchasers in order to confirm a sale before the order has been fulfilled. Purchase orders serve as legal documents and help avoid any future disputes regarding the transaction. In addition, POs help keep track of incoming orders, and a well-organized purchase order system can help simplify the inventory and shipping process.

This term refers to creating a “release” against (or in other words, in relation to) a standing purchase order type. Accounting distributions in a purchasing environment refer to monetary amounts issued to specific general ledger (GL) accounts – allowing for better categorization of documented expenditures in accounting records. If the buyer thinks you did not follow the purchase order terms and conditions or made a mistake, you can reference the original PO.

The PO Invoice Procurement Process

There are a few distinct differences between contract purchase orders when compared to planned purchase orders and blanket purchase orders. Use-cases for a BPO typically arise in situations where unpredictable purchasing circumstances may make forecasting exact requirements difficult or impossible. PPOs may sometimes include unconfirmed tentative schedules, but these schedules must always be confirmed by a release prior to the order being confirmed for delivery.

Purchase orders also look very similar to invoices–at the top, you have the contact information and details for each company, plus the PO number and date. Below that information is generally a table with the products, quantities, details and prices in separate columns. At the bottom of the purchase order, you’ll place the total order amount, the total price and any other order or payment terms along with an authorized signature. A purchase order is a written authorization from a buyer to acquire goods or services. The document authorizes a supplier to deliver to the buyer at the price, quality level, delivery date, and certain other terms specified in the agreement. A purchase order is legally binding after the supplier counter-signs it.

The only requirement in most cases is that the PO invoice details should match those on the purchase order. Invoices often move through numerous stages throughout the accounts payable department before they are finally approved. Understanding the difference between a PO and a non-PO invoice is very important, especially for businesses looking to automate the accounts payable process. The purchase order is a document generated by the buyer and serves the purpose of ordering goods from the supplier. The invoice, on the other hand, is generated by the supplier and shows how much the buyer needs to pay for goods bought from the supplier.