The Complete Guide to Invoice Coding in Accounts Payable

5 min

Tired of coding all your supplier invoices by hand? You’re not alone. Invoice coding is a tedious and error-prone process that has long frustrated accounts payable staff. 

Today’s blog is here to demystify this complex process, offering insights and strategies to streamline your AP operations. We'll start with the basics: defining invoice coding, explaining its importance, as well as how it fits into the AP process. 

Next, we will delve into the nuances of invoice coding, address common hurdles, and provide practical solutions to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of your financial workflows.

What Is Invoice Coding and Why Does It Matter? 

Invoice coding is akin to labeling your bills, a method that enables you to track and manage your spending. By assigning codes or categories to each invoice, you can easily identify the purpose of the expense, the department it pertains to, and other relevant information. 

This system of coding organizes your financial transactions and makes it possible to properly track expenses, making it more efficient to oversee your financials.

In turn, invoice coding improves the accuracy and transparency of your financial records. This helps with budgeting, reporting, and decision-making.

How Invoice Coding Fits into Your AP Process

Now that we’ve covered the basics of invoice coding, let’s take a more detailed look at how it works. 

Below, we explore the various steps of the accounts payable workflow, with a focus on invoice coding. 

1. Invoice Receipt.

The process begins when a vendor sends an invoice to your AP team. It can show up as a physical document or an electronic file.

2. Invoice Capture.

The AP team first reviews the invoice for basic compliance. Next, they must capture any relevant invoice information including: vendor details, invoice date, invoice number, and a description of the goods or services. If applicable, the AP team also matches the invoice with the purchase order at this stage to confirm that the goods or services were ordered and received.

3. Invoice Coding.

After capturing the invoice data, it’s time to code the invoice. Invoice coding allows finance teams to categorize the various expenses; there are various methods of invoice coding, including: 

  • General Ledger (GL) Code Assignment: Each line item on the invoice is assigned a GL account, either directly or via an item code. These codes correspond to expense categories in your accounting system, such as utilities, office supplies, or other services.
  • Cost Center Allocation: If you need to allocate expenses to departments or projects, you can use cost center codes. This helps in tracking and managing budgets.
  • Tax Considerations: If the invoice includes taxes (like VAT or sales tax), you can code them to ensure more accurate tax reporting.

4. Invoice Approval.

Depending on internal controls, the coded invoice may require approval. This is often from a manager or department head, especially if the amount exceeds a certain threshold. 

5. Ready for Payment.

Once coded and approved, the invoice is ready for the payment run. This factors in your company's payment terms with the vendor.

As you can see, invoice coding is the glue that holds together your payables reporting. It ensures accurate financial reporting and helps improve your budget tracking and compliance. 

If you are looking to streamline and simplify your AP process, Centime's invoice coding automation is a game-changer. Try it for free by clicking the banner below.

Identifying and Addressing Common Challenges in Invoice Coding

Navigating the world of invoice coding can sometimes feel like trying to solve a complex puzzle.

With the diverse array of departments and projects within organizations, developing a coding system that's both comprehensive and consistent across teams is no small feat. It's all too easy for inconsistencies to creep in, leading to vague or incomplete coding that can throw a wrench in your financial workflows.

A significant challenge is ensuring that your coding system evolves with your business, a task made harder by the absence of standardized coding across industries. Here's a closer look at the common hurdles AP teams encounter:

Inherent Complexity

Coding invoices demands a detailed review, not just of the document itself but also of its broader context.

Non-Scalable Processes

Manual approaches buckle under the weight of growing invoice volumes.

Coding Errors

Larger invoices inherently carry a higher risk of coding errors.

Automation Limitations

Despite the promise of AP automation tools, those with complex needs often find shortcomings, particularly in visibility and manual effort.

For example, many platforms require multiple interactions to fully code an invoice, which can negate the benefits of automation. Furthermore, they offer limited visibility into line-level detail. 

Invoice Coding Best Practices

We've walked through the twists and turns of traditional invoice coding challenges, now let's pivot to a straighter path. Embracing certain best practices can transform these obstacles into opportunities for greater accuracy and efficiency.

5 Best Practices for Elevating Accuracy and Efficiency

Here's how you can leap over common hurdles with ease and grace:

  • Embrace AP Automation Software. Dive into the world of AP automation with tools like Centime, where speed meets precision. Centime’s AP automation does more than just expedite invoice data capture; it provides smart coding suggestions based on your past activities, alongside nifty error spotting and correction features. Automating the nitty-gritty of invoice data extraction and coding not only streamlines the process but also liberates your AP team to channel their energies into more strategic tasks, significantly dialing down manual entry mishaps.

  • Invest in Ongoing Training for AP Staff. Keep your team in the loop with regular updates on the latest in coding practices and software enhancements. It's all about empowering them with new skills and insights to boost their productivity and overall performance.
  • Set Clear Coding Standards. Craft and circulate concise coding guidelines within your team. Make sure everyone's on the same page about expense categories and the ins and outs of coding specific to your business needs.
  • Keep Your Vendor Database Pristine. Regularly spruce up your vendor database to ensure information is always up to date. This little step can significantly cut down coding times by automating data fill-ins.
  • Foster a Culture of Feedback. Build a vibrant feedback ecosystem where your invoice coding champions can voice challenges and seek support. This ongoing dialogue is key to continually refining and honing your coding processes.

By weaving these best practices into the fabric of your AP operations, you're not just sidestepping potential pitfalls; you're also paving a smoother, more efficient path forward. 

Transform Invoice Coding in Accounts Payable with Centime

Are you looking to elevate your invoice coding process? Centime's cutting-edge AP automation solution delivers an unparalleled coding experience. It's equipped with enhanced dropdowns, intelligent search capabilities, and dynamic viewing adjustments, all housed within a dedicated coding space crafted for focused precision.

Enjoy the ease of keyboard-driven navigation, minimizing unnecessary clicks and maximizing your workspace efficiency. By integrating directly with your accounting system, Centime not only simplifies your processes but also provides invaluable real-time financial insights. 

Try out our tool for free today by clicking the banner below. 

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