AP Audit Guide 2024: The Most Comprehensive and Up-to-Date Resource

8 min

In 2023, a staggering 80% of organizations faced attempted or actual payments fraud, according to the AFP’s Payments Fraud and Control Survey. Businesses pay a hefty price for this: they lose an average of 5% of their revenue to fraud each year, as reported by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in 2020.

Accounts Payable departments, handling numerous transactions, are especially prone to fraud. This vulnerability is why thorough audits are so crucial for AP teams. Yet, audits remain a sharp pain point for many teams. 

We get it. Navigating an AP audit can feel like trying to compile a report on global smartphone usage while testing every single device yourself. But tackling an effective and efficient AP audit in 2024 doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.

Imagine transforming your mountain of mismatched invoices and unchecked vendor contracts into a manageable, stress-free process. Welcome to the most comprehensive and up-to-date guide on running an AP audit.

Get ready to see your audit worries vanish like morning fog. This isn’t your standard step-by-step guide. We go beyond the basics, diving deep into strategies, methods, and best practices designed for 2024.

Step-by-Step Guide to Running an AP Audit

Let’s dive into the basics of accounts payable (AP) audits. In the American business world, audits come in two main flavors: unplanned ones by the IRS and planned audits by internal or external auditors. The main goals of an AP audit are to evaluate internal control processes, ensure all transactions are recorded accurately, and comply with laws, regulations, and policies.

AP audits can range from quick checks to extensive investigations, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. The method chosen depends on variables like company size, structure, and the audit’s intended focus.

Despite these differences, auditors generally look for the same things: completeness, accuracy, validity, compliance of records, and proper disclosure. These elements confirm whether or not your organization’s records present an accurate view of the business. 

No matter the circumstances, auditors—whether internal or external—usually follow a four-stage process. The next few sections will explore each of these steps in detail.

Step 1: Understand the AP Audit Procedures

Accounts Payable (AP) audits provide crucial insights into a company's financial health and operational efficiency. To ensure accurate and productive audit results, it’s essential to prepare your team well in advance.\

Systematic organization and comprehensive record tracking are vital long before auditors arrive. By implementing procedures such as verifying all incoming invoices, cross-checking them with purchase orders, scrutinizing reconciliation processes, and inspecting the approval chain, you’ll simplify the audit process in the future.

Mastering these procedures is key to maintaining financial integrity. Rigorous checks and balances within your organization will not only prepare you for your next audit but also make the process smooth and efficient.

Step 2: Plan and Prepare Your AP Audit Checklist

Once an audit is scheduled, the auditor will set goals, establish parameters, and develop a detailed AP audit plan.

For internal audits, you'll need to create a checklist tailored to your specific needs. Planning and preparing an AP audit checklist is crucial for staying organized and ready when the audit occurs. This checklist helps establish a consistent framework by highlighting critical areas and ensuring thorough examination.

As mentioned earlier, every audit is unique. Your audit checklist may vary depending on the audit's purpose. Regardless, preparation is essential. You’ll need to gather and organize necessary documents, review vendor records, and ensure your general ledger is current.

Step 3: Execute the AP Audit 

Once armed with your checklist, the next step is to actually execute the AP audit.

The process should follow a meticulous approach no matter the audit’s focus: verifying vendor details, scrutinizing payment approval methods, investigating any discrepancies, and evaluating internal control systems. 

Conducting the audit efficiently means staying focused and organized. Keep referring to your checklist, maintain consistent communication with your team, and don’t rush. 

Step 4: Analyze and Report Findings

The final step in an AP audit process is to analyze the results and report your findings. Quantitative and qualitative analysis methods can help identify any inconsistencies, fraudulent activities, or inefficiencies in the AP process.

Remember, audits provide a valuable opportunity to improve your AP process. Take advantage of this time to really understand your system’s weaknesses and explore alternative solutions.

After careful analysis, present your findings with appropriate solutions. Reports should be comprehensive, clear, and concise to ensure the relevant stakeholders can extract key insights and devise actionable strategies.

Enhancing Your AP Audit with Best Practices

The Importance of Regular AP Audits

Regular AP audits are no light matters. They are the backbone of your business financial health, ensuring both internal and external compliance. 

Imagine a system where errors, inaccuracies, and fraudulent activities were caught before they had a chance to materialize. With regular AP audits, this can become your reality. 

Conducting regular AP audits offers numerous benefits. They help identify and correct errors, prevent fraud, and ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Here are some of the ways in which regular AP audits can benefit your company:

  • Identifying Unrecorded Liabilities: Regular audits help your team find any unrecorded liabilities in period-end AP details, ensuring all financial obligations are accurately documented.
  • Detecting Fraudulent or Duplicate Transactions: By increasing the chances of catching any fraudulent or duplicate transactions, regular audits safeguard your financial integrity and protect against financial losses.
  • Improving Internal Controls: Regular audits serve as an opportunity for your team to review internal control procedures and ensure the accuracy of financial statements. This proactive approach strengthens your financial management processes.
  • Unlocking Cost Savings: By identifying erroneous charges, fraud, and double payments, regular audits can lead to substantial cost savings. Businesses can recuperate funds that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, improving overall financial health.
  • Enhancing Supplier Relationships: Regular audits ensure that payments are accurate and timely, fostering goodwill with suppliers. This leads to stronger, more reliable business partnerships, benefiting both parties.
  • Minimizing Fraud: According to the ACFE’s 2020 report, asset misappropriation—like cash theft and sneaky billing schemes—was found in a whopping 86% of cases they analyzed, with firms losing a median of $100,000. The pandemic only made things trickier, with nearly 70% of organizations reporting increased fraud. Regular audits act as your financial watchdog, sniffing out and stopping fraudulent activity before it can do serious damage.

Overall, regular AP audits play a critical role in maintaining financial integrity, reducing risks, and optimizing business operations. By making audits a routine part of your financial management strategy, you can safeguard your company's assets and build a foundation for long-term success.

Now that you understand the importance of regular AP audits, let's dive into some best practices that can make your audit process smoother and more efficient.

5 Best Practices for Your AP Audit

AP audits don’t have to be a dreaded chore. By implementing effective practices, businesses can turn this task into a streamlined compliance system that boosts both internal and external credibility. Best practices for an AP audit can vary by business, but some principles apply universally. Here are five key practices:

  1. Maintain an Accurate and Up-to-Date Chart of Accounts: Keeping detailed records of all financial transactions improves your chances of passing an AP audit by ensuring accuracy and completeness in your financial statements.
  2. Segregate Duties Within the Accounts Payable Department: Assign different tasks, such as invoice verification and payment processing, to different individuals. This reduces the risk of fraud, as it would require collusion between multiple employees to manipulate the system.
  3. Disclose All Expenses: Transparency in expense reporting provides a clear and accurate picture of the company’s financial health. It ensures all liabilities are accounted for, preventing potential misstatements or omissions that could lead to compliance issues.
  4. Adhere to GAAP Guidelines: Following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) promotes legal compliance, maintains financial integrity, and builds investor confidence by providing clear, reliable, and comparable financial statements.
  5. Conduct a Cutoff Test: This practice ensures that accounts payable transactions are recorded in the correct accounting period. It verifies that liabilities are recognized when the related goods or services are received, regardless of when the invoice was issued or paid. Auditors review transactions around the period end to identify any misrecorded items, ensuring the financial statements accurately reflect the company's financial position and that expenses are matched with the appropriate period.

How These Practices Enhance the Audit Process 

These practices do more than just sound good on paper. They confer tangible enhancements to the AP audit process. 

By adhering to best practices, your business can establish a robust, holistic approach towards AP audits. This keeps your financial processes streamlined, efficient, and trustworthy - three key ingredients for successful audits. 

Moreover, these practices also foster a culture of accountability and financial responsibility within your business, which further strengthens your audit process. 

How to Leverage Technology in AP Audits

Role of Technology in AP Audits: 3 Ways AP Automation Can Help

Remember the days when audits meant wading through mountains of paperwork, old receipts, and expense reports? It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack—time-consuming, inefficient, and, frankly, a nightmare if your business had a high volume of transactions. Not to mention, relying on a paper trail can slow down your audit, hiking up its associated costs. 

Lucky for us, we live in an era where technology touches every facet of business operations, including AP audits. Automated AP software is the superhero we didn't know we needed. By digitizing and automating the most tedious audit tasks, its technology allows auditors to work smarter, not harder. It shifts the focus from sifting through endless data to engaging in higher-value tasks, such as analysis and strategic decision-making.

1. Provides A Digital Solution: No More Paper

Let's face it—paper is the enemy of efficiency. It's cumbersome, easy to lose, and expensive (not to mention a pain) to store. Digital records are easier to track, monitor, measure, and organize. Gone are the days of misplaced, shredded, or destroyed documents. AP automation makes document management a breeze by making your invoicing and payment process transparent and easy to track.

2. Enables Easy Document Management: Your Digital Vault

Imagine having all your financial data stored in one secure location. AP software retains crucial information like vendor information, transaction histories, purchase orders, invoice numbers, and more. This centralized data storage means auditors can work faster and more efficiently. When everything is digitally stored and organized, finding what you need becomes a breeze.

3. Maximizes Cost Efficiency: Reducing the Price of Audits

Auditors are expensive, especially when you’re paying an outside firm to do it for you. Thankfully AP automation software helps reduce these costs by saving staff time they’d normally spend manually searching for necessary documents. 

Choosing the Right AP Automation Software

Undoubtedly, the right AP automation software has the power to transform audit operations, but how do you ensure you’re choosing the correct one?

There are a few essential factors to consider when choosing accounts payable software. It's crucial to assess factors like: 

  • Ease of use
  • Security measures
  • Depth of integration with your accounting system
  • Quality of customer support
  • Pricing

The right AP automation solution will simplify your AP audits by minimizing manual data entry and its associated human errors. It also standardizes your AP workflow so that it’s more efficient, while also saving associated documents so you can find them more easily than a paper system. Not to mention, by integrating with your accounting system, AP automation improves your data consistency and reporting capabilities. This all works to make your AP audit easier than ever. 

Simplify Your AP Audit with Centime’s AP Automation 

Centime's AP automation software makes AP audits easier by streamlining and automating your accounts payable process. Using AI, it instantly captures invoice data, categorizes and codes invoices automatically, and integrates seamlessly with your accounting system. This reduces manual errors and ensures accurate record-keeping.

Additionally, the software mitigates fraud risk by enhancing internal controls and providing real-time visibility into financial data. With a robust audit trail, Centime makes thorough and efficient AP audits a reality.

Understanding the Importance of AP Audits

What is an AP Audit?

AP audits, or Accounts Payable audits, involve an exhaustive review of your company's AP department. The aim is to check the accuracy of outgoing payments and verify adherence to the organization’s policies and procedures. An AP audit is instrumental in identifying errors, omissions, fraud, and areas where procedure enhancements are needed.

An AP audit includes key components, such as: 

  • Vendor Invoices: An integral part of the AP Audit. The auditor ensures that invoice amounts match what's logged in the business accounting system.
  • Payments: Verification of outgoing payments to vendors and their accuracy.
  • Vendor information: Validation of vendor information to prevent fraud and ensure compliance.

Why is an AP Audit Important?

At its heart, an AP audit is not just about error or fraud detection. It's a tool used to improve efficiency, keep companies compliant, and guard against financial discrepancies. Regular audits help increase financial accuracy and bring a sense of integrity to the company's financial statements.

Executing an AP audit can open up a suite of benefits:

  • Cost Savings: By identifying overpayments, duplicate payments, and fraudulent activities.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: Helps streamline processes, eliminate bottlenecks, and speed up payment cycles.
  • Compliance: Assures that the company is complying with legal requirements and financial reporting standards.

How Often to Complete an AP Audit? 

There’s not a one-size-fits-all schedule for auditing, but AP teams should conduct audits at least annually to ensure the accuracy and integrity of their financial records. Regular audits help identify and correct errors, detect and prevent fraud, and ensure compliance with internal policies and external regulations. That said, it’s also best practice to conduct surprise audits to help catch internal fraud. 

Conducting audits more frequently, such as quarterly or semi-annually, can provide even greater assurance of financial health and operational efficiency. It’s also a good idea to conduct an audit after any major tech changes like implementing a new accounting system. 

Common Challenges in AP Audits and How to Overcome Them

Every AP audit comes with its own set of hurdles. However, common challenges include data inaccuracy, time constraints, and miscommunication.

Overcoming these obstacles involves implementing the right strategies:

  • Standardize procedures: Outlining standard procedures can eliminate confusion and reduce errors.
  • Leverage technology: Use automation tools to expedite the auditing process and improve accuracy.
  • Regular training: Ensure that staff is well-versed with the audit process, reducing bottlenecks.

This detailed understanding of AP audits, their purpose, benefits, and challenges will prepare you to leverage their potential effectively. It's time to move beyond seeing AP audits as mere compliance requirements to viewing them as tools for enhanced financial efficiency and integrity. Remembering these insights will guide you in constructing effective auditing strategies and help sidestep common pitfalls.

Pulling the Threads of AP Audit 2024 

We've navigated the intricacies of an AP Audit, from understanding its significance to disentangling critical compliance points, and appreciating its pivotal role in enhancing your business's financial health.

Your first takeaway? An AP audit isn't just a checkbox. It's a means to optimize your organization's strategic steps. It's seeing those hidden opportunities for improvement and cost savings. Let's not forget why this matters - improved efficiency, mitigation of costly errors, protection against fraud, better financial controls, and that intangible yet crucial trust of stakeholders.

Now, armed with refreshed insights and an up-to-date guide, it's up to you to implement these in your AP audit process. Is your organization following the insights gleaned? 

You know your organization best. Keep in mind the significance of an effective AP audit, and the considerable perks it brings. Remember, every step you take on this journey is a step towards operational excellence.


The audit world waits for no one; it’s time to step up with confidence and make it count.

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