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Duplicate Invoice

Slaying the Duplicate Invoice Dragon

By Mary Schaeffer

Submitting duplicate copies of the same invoice has turned into a nightmare for a large number of companies. Two-thirds of those responding to a just-completed AP Now survey reported this as an issue that caused them problems on an ongoing basis. While this has always been a problem, the issue has been magnified due to email. It now costs next to nothing for a vendor to send multiple copies.

Even if the organization is successful in weeding out the duplicate invoices, the time spent identifying the duplicate is non-value add. Valuable human resources are wasted doing so. These folks can and should be doing something else. And of course, a few of those duplicate invoices do get paid and some of those vendors neglect to return the funds.

We acknowledge that a small percentage of those are doing so in the hopes of enticing you to pay twice. But this is not the motivation for the majority. Here are some steps you can use to minimize this issue:

Step 1:

Identify the culprits and ask them to stop. This step will have to be repeated periodically.

Step 2:

Make sure none of your employees are sabotaging your efforts by asking suppliers to send them a copy also – and then they forward it to accounts payable for payment.

Step 3:

Pay on time. Vendors are within their rights to submit a second copy of the invoice, if you haven’t paid them within the agreed upon payment terms.

Step 4:

Create an automated notification to your vendors telling them you have their invoice. If you can indicate an approximate payment date, do so. It will help to reduce those annoying calls asking when payment will be made.

Step 5:

Start using an invoice automation process, selecting a service provider that is capable of sending the automated notice to the vendor indicated in Step 4. Select an invoice automation system that has an online payment status function that the vendors can use to check payment dates.

While it is probably not realistic to think you can completely eliminate this problem, you can certainly make a big dent in it.

Mary S. Schaeffer, a nationally recognized accounts payable expert, is the founder of AP Now, a company that creates business intelligence on all issues impacting the accounts payable and payment function. She is the host of the AP Now Podcast.

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