An A/P specialist handles all the Accounts Payable functions of a company. In a very broad sense they make sure the bills get paid. While this may seem like a straightforward job, it is a necessary function that requires attention to detail and an ability to juggle various tasks at once. The job of an A/P specialist tends to fall into 3 divisions: entering invoices, paying invoices, and tracking the payments.
Receiving and Entering Invoices
The accounts payable function deals with the invoices a company receives from its vendors. An A/P specialist can receive these invoices through email or regular mail and deals with them from there. Most companies need approval from an account manager or department head before an invoice can be paid. They may also need documentation, such as purchase orders, to verify the amount of the invoice. An A/P specialist is responsible for making sure the paperwork and approvals are in order before an invoice can be paid. Here is an example of the approval process at Tufts University. Once everything is in order the invoice must be entered into the accounting system. This process will vary depending on the software the company uses. The A/P specialist will generally assign a unique number to the invoice, enter the amount, and code the invoice to the general ledger account it will be expensed to.
The most well known function of an A/P specialist is to print and send out checks. This is often done once a week. The exact process depends on the software being used, but generally the A/P specialist will tell the program which checks to cut according to department policy regarding how much money is available and the repayment terms with each vendor. Many companies don’t keep enough cash on hand at any one time to pay all their bills so the specialist must be able to use their judgment to avoid late fees and bounced checks. This article from the Accounts Payable Network gives a great explanation of how accounts payable can manage cash flows. Depending on the company the specialist may also be responsible for putting the checks in envelopes and getting them ready to mail.
Tracking Paid Invoices
Finally, A/P specialists need to use the accounting system and contact with vendors to keep track of payments and make sure they are applied correctly. The A/P specialist is the person that will handle any questions a vendor may have in regards to applying the payment. They answer questions about which invoices a check is paying and about any discrepancy in the amount paid. The specialist also ensures that checks are cashed and that the company is credited for paying the bill. Many invoices carry late fees or charges for NSF checks and the A/P specialist helps guard against these by watching to make sure the invoices are received and applied.
The A/P specialist may be a fairly junior position within an accounting department, but it is a vital role. The specialist ensures bills are paid on time and that the company is using proper cash flow management while paying invoices. No business can run if the bills aren’t paid and the A/P specialist is the one keeping the lights on.