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Accounts Payable (AP) are short-term obligations that a company owes to its creditors or suppliers, but company has not yet paid for them. On a company's balance sheet, payables are recorded as a current liability.

Understanding Accounts Payable: Is it a debit or a credit?

To better understand AP, we must first know the basic concept of debits and credits.

What are debits and credits?

Debit and credit are the two essential accounting terms you must know to understand the double-entry accounting system. A double-entry accounting system records each transaction as a debit and a credit. This ensures that the books are always balanced.

If a business has a debit balance in its asset account, the normal balance of Accounts Payable, it owes money to someone. Conversely, if a business has a credit balance in its asset account, it has more assets than liabilities and is owed money by others.

What is Account Payable?

The same principle applies to payable accounts. A debit balance in a payable account means that the company owes money, while a credit balance indicates that the company is owed money. Therefore, the normal balance of Accounts Payable is negative.

A company's Accounts Payable include any outstanding bills that need to be paid shortly. The creditor is another term for a company's owed money.

Companies that procure or purchase on credit from vendors often run up Accounts Payable balances. Their Accounts Payable are shown on their balance sheet after each fiscal year.

Accounts Payable is a liability since it is a debt. A company's liability is the amount it owes on a debt it incurred in the past but has yet to pay. A business may incur these debts for a variety of reasons. However, Accounts Payable balances only include debts incurred due to normal business activities and interactions with outside vendors and suppliers.

The following are examples of common aspects of Accounts Payable:

  • When a payment is paid on time, the borrower is often exempt from paying interest on the loan.
  • Accounts Payable are assigned a date that must be paid by, beyond which the seller may begin to assess late penalties. In most cases, payment is expected within 30 to 60 days after the invoice was issued.
  • They are an example of a liability regarded as on the shorter end of the time spectrum.
  • They are unsecured debts, meaning any security does not back them.

An agreement between the firm and the seller may take the form of a contract or an agreement, and it is this document specifies the credit conditions to be applied.

Is Accounts Payable debit or credit?

To answer the question, Accounts Payable are considered to be a type of liability account. This means that when money is owed to someone, it is considered to be credit. On the other hand, when someone owes you money, it is considered to be a debit. In this case, Accounts Payable would be classified as a debit.

Depending on the nature of the transaction, Accounts Payable may be recorded as a debit or a credit. Accounts Payable is a liability; hence any growth in that number is typically credited. Accounts Payable are often credited when an entity receives payment but debited when the company is released from its legal obligation to pay the debt.

Accounts Payable are a type of liability, meaning they are a debt your company owes. Liabilities are usually recorded as a credit on your balance sheet. However, Accounts Payable can also be considered a debit, depending on how you structure your chart of accounts.

Credit purchases are the most frequent source of credit in AP. When a business uses credit to buy supplies, the transaction is recorded in Accounts Payable.

Conversely, a debit in Accounts Payable often results from cash being refunded to suppliers, reducing liabilities. Debits in Accounts Payable might also result from discounts or product returns.

Accounts Payable are considered a liability, which means they are typically recorded as a debit on a company's balance sheet. However, the account may be recorded as a credit if a company makes early payments or pays more than is owed.

AP Contact

The role of an "AP Contact" might not be widely recognized, but it's pivotal in organizational success. AP Contacts are tasked with managing Accounts Payable (AP) processes and functions throughout a business, serving as the primary point of contact between vendors, suppliers, and internal stakeholders.

While the role of an AP Contact may not always receive the spotlight, its significance cannot be understated. Without dedicated individuals managing AP processes and fostering relationships with vendors, accounts payable activities could quickly become chaotic and inefficient. Therefore, recognizing and supporting the efforts of AP Contacts is essential for maintaining streamlined financial operations within organizations.

Journal Entries

Journal entries are created in accounting systems to record financial transactions. Debits and credits must be recorded in a certain order in an accounting journal entry. Debits and credits in an accounting journal will always appear in columns next to one another. As usual, debits will be shown on the left and credits on the right. When recording a transaction, it is always important to put data in the proper column.

The company's Purchases or Stock account will be debited, and Cash or Bank will be credited whenever it makes a payment to a vendor. If, however, it decides to make these purchases on credit, it will need to increase its liabilities. Here is the double entry for buying anything on credit:





Account Payable


Companies often refer to the name of the vendor from whom they have made purchases rather than the "Account payable" account when recording financial transactions. Instead of keeping all the balances under a single account, it enables them to manage their Accounts Payable balances more efficiently.

After the business has settled its debt to the vendor, it is required to lessen the responsibility connected to the debt. Cash or bank transfers are the two most common methods that businesses use to make a debit to Accounts Payable. Consequently, the double entry for the payback of Accounts Payable should look like this.


Account Payable





The business must reduce its Accounts Payable balance if it sells the items it has acquired and then returns those things before paying back the debt. This is because items that are sent back to the provider cut down on the responsibility linked with such items, supposing that the supplier would accept returns.

Automate data capture, build workflows and streamline the Accounts Payable process in seconds. No code is required. Book a 30-min live demo now. Automate invoice payments with AI.

What is meant by a "Turnover Ratio" for Accounts Payable?

A company's short-term liquidity may be evaluated by calculating a ratio known as Accounts Payable urnover. This ratio represents the average pace at which a business pays back its suppliers. The Accounts Payable turnover ratio is a statistic businesses use to gauge how well they are clearing off their short-term debt.

The following is the formula that should be used to calculate the Accounts Payable turnover ratio:

Payable Turnover Ratio = Net Credit Purchases/Average Accounts Payable

In certain calculations, the numerator will not include net credit purchases; rather, it will utilize the cost of goods sold. The total Accounts Payable at the beginning of an accounting period and Accounts Payable after the period are added together and then divided by 2.

Creditors can gauge the company's short-term liquidity and, by extension, its creditworthiness based on the Accounts Payable turnover ratio. If the percentage is high, buyers pay their credit card vendors on time. Suppliers may be pushing for faster payments, or the firm may be trying to take advantage of early payment incentives or raise its creditworthiness if the figure is high.

A low percentage suggests a pattern of late or nonpayment to vendors for credit transactions. This might be because of good lending conditions or an indication of cash flow issues and a deteriorating financial situation. Although a falling ratio could suggest financial trouble, that is not always the case. The business may have negotiated more favorable payment conditions that will enable it to delay payments without incurring any additional fees.

Suppliers' credit terms often determine a company's Accounts Payable turnover ratio. Companies that can negotiate more favorable lending arrangements often report a lower ratio. Large companies' Accounts Payable turnover ratios would be lower because they are better positioned to negotiate favorable credit terms (source).

Companies should use the credit terms extended by suppliers to their advantage to receive discounts on purchases, even though a high Accounts Payable turnover ratio is generally desirable to creditors as signaling creditworthiness.

When analyzing a company's turnover ratio, it is important to do so in the context of its peers in the same industry. If, for instance, the majority of a company's rivals have a payables turnover ratio of at least four, the two-figure figure for the hypothetical company becomes more worrisome.

Leveraging rebates for prompt Payments

Regarding using any early payment discounts made available by suppliers, Accounts Payable also have a part to play in the process.

For example, a provider may provide terms such as "3/15 net 30 days." This indicates that the client will get a 3% reduction on the total value of the invoice if they pay it within 15 days rather than the agreed-upon 30 days, and this discount will be applied to the stated amount of the invoice.

A discount like this may be attractive to businesses that procure products and services. The buyer may decide to provide its suppliers with early payments as part of a dynamic discounting solution to take advantage of reductions in a systematic and organized manner. Because of this, vendors can accept early payment on selected bills on a flexible basis, i.e., the sooner the payment, the larger the discount.

In this manner, suppliers can satisfy their cash flow needs, while the buying firm can invest its own funds to generate a risk-free return on its investment.

Early payment schemes, which may incorporate dynamic discounting and supply chain financing, can provide you with access to reasonably priced liquidity whenever and wherever you want it. Finally, yet importantly, electronic invoicing systems may provide vendors with the ability to automate the transmission of their invoices directly to the ERP system used by their customers.

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Recording Account Payable - Examples

The following examples should make it clearer how the entries in the journal are to be made for the Account Payable.

Example 1:

One business, XYZ Company, purchases from another company, LMN Co., for a total of $3000 worth of products. Additionally, it purchases from a different supplier, QPR Co., totaling $8,000 worth of items. These two purchases are being made using credit for one month. The following are the double entries that need to be completed for the purchase that was made from LMN Company:





Account Payable (LMN)


Similarly, the double-entry for the purchase that was made from QPR Company looks like this:





Account Payable (QPR)


After a month has passed, XYZ Company makes a repayment to LMN and QPR Companies for the purchase made above. The bank or cash source of XYZ Company is used to make a debit to Accounts Payable. The following is the compound accounting entry that should be made to both Accounts Payable ledgers.


Accounts Payable (LMN)



Accounts Payable (QPR)





This entry nullifies the balance in suppliers' ledgers, i.e., Accounts Payable (LMN) and Accounts Payable (QPR). The closing balance at the end of the financial year will be zero per these two transactions.

When you pay your rent, you debit your account with the money you owe. So, when tracking transactions in a double-entry accounting system, think of debits as money flowing out of an account and credits as money flowing into an account. This might initially seem confusing, but it will become clear once you start working with examples. Let's take a closer look at what these terms mean and how they work together in the accounting system.

Example 2:

XYZ firm has moved its day-to-day business activities into a location rented from UVW company at the cost of $2,500 per month for the space. XYZ Company is paying rent to UVW Company.

On an accrual basis, the payment of the overdue amount takes place after the rental service has been completed. This implies that first, the service is enjoyed, and then the payment for it is made after it has been provided for a month.

The following is how the double entry for the rental service appears for the company that was bought from UVW:


Rent Expense



Rent Account Payable (UVW)


After a month, UVW will receive the overdue sum of $2,500 in payment. The submission must be made in the following format:


Rent Account Payable (UVW)





Recording credits and debits for owner's equity accounts

On the balance sheet, liabilities include any items that represent debts owed by the company to third parties, such as financial institutions or suppliers. They can be current liabilities such as Accounts Payable and accruals, or long-term liabilities such as bonds payable or mortgages payable.

On the balance sheet's right side are the accounts representing the owner's equity. These accounts include retained earnings and common stock. When making journal entries, they are handled in the same manner as liability accounts.

Book this 30-min live demo to make this the last time that you'll ever have to manually key in data from invoices or receipts into ERP software.

Differences between Notes Payable and Accounts Payable

The obligations the company must fulfill in the form of Notes Payable might be either short-term or long-term. Accounts Payable are usually considered short-term obligations that must be paid within one year of the invoice date.

It is not common practice to convert Notes Payable into Accounts Payable; nonetheless, it is possible to convert Accounts Payable into Notes Payable as long as all parties concerned have reached an agreement and have a shared knowledge of the terms involved.

Notes Payable are written agreements that are mostly crafted and issued for debt arrangements. These written agreements are payable to credit firms and financial institutions. The companies that fall under the category of "accounts due" are most often those that provide services and inventories.

In most cases, a written note or document to define the terms and conditions of Accounts Payable is not required to be kept. Nevertheless, an invoice generated by the vendor and connected to each order may be found in the following: Notes payable, on the other hand, are accompanied by a set of terms and conditions relevant to the debt repayment. These terms and conditions may contain information on interest rates, the date when the note will mature, collateral information, and other relevant details.

A Notes Payable account is used to record incoming and outgoing transactions from financial institutions, while an Accounts Payable account is used to keep track of the purchase of goods and services.

When it comes to Accounts Payable, most of the time, it is a verbal agreement between both parties, and there are no associated finance costs, even though there may be accessible trade discounts. Notes payable do include an interest payment, which indicates a component of financing involved; nonetheless, the interest charge is often seen as distinct from the amount lent.

Accounts Payable are always utilized in working capital management, and their presence affects the cash conversion cycle of a business. On the other hand, Notes Payable could or might not be accounted for as part of the management of a company's cash flow.

Notes payable and Accounts Payable are examples of current obligations; nevertheless, several key distinctions exist between the two types of accounts. Both of these obligations have a certain degree of influence on the total liquidity of an organization; thus, they have to be handled in a manner that is both responsible and effective.

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Automating the Accounts Payable process

Automating the Accounts Payable process can be a great way to save time and reduce errors. By automating the process, businesses can avoid manually inputting data and ensure that all invoices are paid on time. Additionally, AP automation can help businesses keep track of spending, as all transactions will be recorded in one place.

Automating Accounts Payable can improve organization's efficiency and bottom line for small businesses and large corporations. Automating the process can eliminate many manual tasks associated with Accounts Payable, such as data entry, check to process, and invoice approval. Additionally, automating Accounts Payable can help to improve your organization's cash flow by speeding up the payment cycle.

Several ways to automate Accounts Payable include using software or outsourcing the process to a third-party provider. Considering automating Accounts Payable, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each option to determine which is best for your organization.

As a business owner, you know that one of the most important — and time-consuming — task is paying your bills on time. But what if there were a way to automate this process?

Enter Nanonets. Nanonets is an AI-powered Accounts Payable solution that makes it easy to automate your invoicing and payments. With Nanonets, you can take a photo of your bill and have it automatically processed — from extraction of critical data to scheduling payments and updating your accounting software — meaning you can spend less time on paperwork and more time running your business.

Moreover, Nanonets is backed by machine learning, so it gets smarter with every invoice it processes. This means that over time, Nanonets will be able to handle more and more of your Accounts Payable tasks, freeing up even more of your time.

The account payable is a liability account used to track the amount of money a company owes to its vendors or other outside parties. The suppliers are independent persons willing to give the company credit to purchase the raw materials. Any growth in the account payable account would be recorded as the credit in the account payables. In contrast, any drop in the account payable account would be reflected as a debit in the account payables.

If there is a reduction in the amount owed to suppliers and the firm's account payable, the business has satisfied its outstanding debts to the vendors. Similarly, a rise in the account payable would indicate an increase in both the amount of money owed to the supplier and the amount of money owed by the company.

It is important to note, in addition, that the terms "account payable" and "trade payable" are used in conjunction with one another; yet, the handling of each may vary depending on the circumstances.

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