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Paying bills is never fun, but paying bills you shouldn’t pay in the first place is even worse. There are many risks that can part a small business owner with their hard-earned cash, and here are five to watch out for when it comes to your bill-paying process.

1. Fraudulent invoices

Some companies will send marketing documents disguised as invoices to businesses. You may have to read the fine print to notice it’s not really an invoice. In some cases, it’s simply outright fraud, trying to get you to pay something that is not owed.

Many times, these invoices look official, similar to legal filing requirements, but don’t be fooled.  Examination of the fine print can save you a lot of money.

Set up procedures to catch these types of invoices. Managers should be careful not to approve these invoices for payment. Bookkeepers should be trained to question their supervisors about these invoices.

2. Item(s) not received

Three-way matching can prevent paying an invoice for which the goods were never received. Put into place a couple of procedures to prevent this accounts-payable error:

  1. Have warehouse staff match the shipping receipt to what’s in the shipment when it arrives.
  2. Have accounts payable staff match the marked-up shipping receipt to the invoice when it comes in. If the invoice shows that more items were billed for than received, a call to the vendor to correct the invoice is in order.  The invoice amount should be adjusted on the books and a check can be cut for the reduced amount.

3. Wrong amount

Sometimes the wrong price can be listed on the invoice.  If this happens, there may have been a misunderstanding during the sales process.  A call to the vendor is needed in this case as well so that a corrected invoice can be issued.

4. Math error

This hardly happens in these days of computers, but it can.  All invoices should be reviewed for reasonableness.  If it doesn’t make sense that something should cost so much, it probably shouldn’t.  In rare cases, a price may have been entered wrong or a computer bug could have occurred.

Spot-checking the invoice’s math can save money if an error has been made.

5. Duplicate invoice

This happens way too often.  We may get an emailed invoice; then the same invoice comes in the mail.  We need procedures in place to keep it from being paid twice.

Many accounting systems do this automatically, but if one character is off related to vendor name, the system could break down.  Review a list of disbursements monthly to make sure payments don’t get duplicated.

Procedures are the answer to reducing accounts payable errors and making sure you pay only the invoices that are truly due.