How Do I Invoice a Customer for Reimbursable Expenses?

In order to easily invoice a customer or client for reimbursable expenses, you first need to make sure your QuickBooks installation is properly configured for this task.  Your configuration depends on how you intend to account for reimbursable expenses.

For more information on handling reimbursable expenses, see our related articles on enabling automatically invoicing customers for reimbursable expenses, what distinguishes a reimbursable expense from other expenses, removing expenses from the list of billable expenses to be invoiced to a customer, and finding out which reimbursable expenses haven’t been billed to a customer.

In addition, note that a key preference setting to enable the approaches discussed in this article is not available in QuickBooks Pro. See our article on the feature differences between QuickBooks Pro and Premier for more information. That means QuickBooks Premier is required to use these methods.

There are 2 general approaches to account for reimbursable expenses:

  1. record the amount your vendor bills you in an expense account and the amount you invoice the customer or client in an income account
  2. record the amount your vendor bills you in an expense account and the amount you invoice the customer or client as an offset to this same expense account

The first approach allows you to track both the revenues and the overall level of expenses for that account; it’s the preferred method, especially if you charge customers more than the amount of the corresponding vendor bill.  The second tracks only the net level of expenses for that account.  It’s a simpler method used by some firms that bill a customer the exact amount of a corresponding vendor bill and monitor the balance of a general ledger account to track reimbursable expenses for which a customer has not yet been invoiced.

For either method, the first step is to set a QuickBooks preference to enable you to easily create invoices for reimbursable expenses.  Click on the Edit->Preferences menu selection to open the Preferences window.  On the Company tab, click on the Time & Expenses sub menu.  Be sure that under the Invoicing options block, the preference to Create invoices from a list of time and expenses is checked.  This preference must be set before entering vendor bills for which you plan to seek reimbursement from a customer or client by issuing an invoice.

Setting this preference and the role of the other preferences in the Invoicing options block are discussed more fully in our article on enabling automatically invoicing customers for reimbursable expenses.

The remainder of the steps to invoice a customer or client for reimbursable expenses depends on the method you choose to account for such expenses.  The first 2 methods record the expense and revenue separately; the third method records the revenue as an offset to the expense account.

Method 1 – Record Both the Expense and Revenue Separately With An Optional Markup

If you select the preference Track reimbursed expenses as income as shown in the above screenshot and assign a different Income account to each General Ledger Expense account for which you want to track reimbursable expenses, you can record both the expense and revenue associated with reimbursable expenses in different accounts.

To use this method after you’ve enabled the preferences and made your account assignments, record vendor bills on the Expenses tab of the Enter Bills window.  Enter an Expense account for which you’ve matched an Income account and enter a Customer:Job.  The Billable? checkbox will be selected by default once you enter a Customer:Job.  Click the Save & Close or Save & New button to record the bill.

Click on the Customers->Invoice for Time & Expenses menu selection to display a list of all customers with unbilled reimbursable expenses.  This menu selection only appears if you correctly set the preference described earlier.  To produce an invoice for the reimbursable expenses for a customer, select that customer’s name and click the Create Invoice button.  If you want to selectively invoice for reimbursable expenses, click the Let me select specific billables for the Customer:Job checkbox before clicking the Create Invoice button.

Click on the Expenses tab to select the unbilled expenses for this customer.  On the Choose Billable Time and Costs window, you can change the Markup Amount or % and the Markup Account used for this transaction.  If you enter a % in the Markup Amount or % field, QuickBooks will treat your entry as a percentage; otherwise, it will be treated as a dollar amount to be added to the expense cost as markup.  Click the Ok button to add these expenses (including the markup) to the customer invoice.

There are 2 advantages to this method:

  1. The description you record with the vendor bill is the description that will be included on the customer invoice 
  2. You can choose to markup billable expenses by a default percentage or override that default with a different percentage or a fixed dollar amount

If you expect that the description you enter with the vendor bill will appear on a customer invoice, it will be easier to record an accurate description for the reimbursable expense while you’re recording the vendor bill.  The limitation to this method is that you have to create a matching Income account for each Expense account for which you will record reimbursable expenses.  If you have a large number of Expense accounts that require matching Income accounts, expect to add a large number of accounts to your Chart of Accounts.  In addition, by recording reimbursable expenses on the Expenses tab, there is no Item associated with the expense, so they won’t be included on Item-based sales reports, such as the Sales by Item Summary or Sales by Customer Detail reports.  On balance, though, the combination of connecting the expense description to the customer invoice and the flexibility to manage the markup for reimbursable expenses makes this method the preferred approach to record and invoice for these expenses.

Method 2 – Record Both the Expense and Revenue Separately Using Items

You can also record both the expense and revenue from reimbursable expenses separately using the Items tab of the Enter Bills window.

First, make sure you have created a General Ledger Income account to track reimbursable expenses.  In this example, our account has an Account Type of Income.  It’s for Reimbursed Freight & Delivery and, since it’s for just 1 type of reimbursement income,  it’s is a Subaccount of our more comprehensive Reimbursement Income account.  Likewise, create a corresponding expense account that you want to associate with this other income.  You should have a general ledger income and expense account for each type of reimbursement income you want to track at the financial statement level.

Create an Item with a Type of Other Charge for each reimbursable item type for which you’ll invoice your customers.  Check the box to indicate This item is used in assemblies or is a reimbursable charge.  Doing so will allow you to record both the Income Account and Expense Account for this Other Charge Item.  Otherwise, you’d only be able to enter an Income Account.  The Income Account should be set to the Income account you created to track for your revenue from this type of reimbursable expense; the Expense Account should be set to the corresponding expense account.  In this example, we’ll use the Freight Reimbursement item.

That completes the preliminary steps to invoice a customer for reimbursable expenses.  Now, we need to record the vendor bill.  In order to track both the revenue and expense for reimbursable expenses, you need to enter vendor bills on the Items tab, as shown below.  Enter the standard vendor bill information, but keep in mind that the Memo or Description will not make their way to your customer invoice.  Instead, the description on the customer invoice will come from the definition of the Item, which in our example is Freight and Delivery Reimbursement.

Click the Items tab.  Enter the Other Charge Item you previously created for this type of expense, which in our example was Freight Reimbursement.  To associate this bill with a customer or job, update the Customer:Job field.  When you do, the Billable? column will be checked by default.  Click either Save & Close or Save & New to record this transaction and save your work.  In this example, we’ll record a $100 expense for overnight delivery and associate it with a specific customer, Balak.

Click on the Customers->Invoice for Time & Expenses menu selection to display a list of all customers with unbilled reimbursable expenses.  This menu selection only appears if you correctly set the preference described earlier.  To produce an invoice for the reimbursable expenses for a customer, select that customer’s name and click the Create Invoice button.  If you want to selectively invoice for reimbursable expenses, click the Let me select specific billables for the Customer:Job checkbox before clicking the Create Invoice button.

The Create Invoices window will appear with the reimbursable expenses you selected already filled in.  On that screen, click Save & Close or Save & New to record the invoice for those reimbursable expenses.  If you need to change what reimbursable expenses are being invoiced, you can click the Add Time/Costs… button to change which reimbursable expenses are included.

Another approach to billing for reimbursable expenses is to simply to start customer invoicing from the usual menu selection, Customers->Create Invoices, and enter the Customer:Job.  If that Customer:Job has outstanding billable time or costs, you’ll this window:

If you make the Select the outstanding billable time and costs to add to this invoice? selection, you’ll see the Choose Billable Time and Costs window, where you can choose which costs you’d like to include on this invoice.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to check each of the 4 tabs to see under which tab the expenses appear, because until you actually select an expense (as we’ve done in the screenshot above), QuickBooks displays zero dollar amounts.  The dollar amounts displayed are the selected dollar amounts – not the available amounts.

With this method, the description of the actual expense is not connected to the description that appears on a customer’s invoice.  For some businesses that want to control the information that appears on a customer’s invoice, this is the preferred method because it insures that a consistent expense description appears on every customer invoice.  However, this approach does not automatically calculate a markup.  The customer invoice will automatically be completed with the actual expense cost, not the actual cost plus a markup.  Adding a markup or changing the expense description would require manually changing the invoice line item after completing the steps described above.

Method 3 – Record the Revenue as an Offset to the Expense Account

Some firms that don’t markup reimbursable expenses opt for a simpler approach of sending both the debit from the vendor bill and the credit from the customer invoice to the same account.  This approach enables a firm to monitor the balance in that account to verify that all reimbursable expenses have been invoiced to a customer.  If the account has a debit balance, some customer invoices haven’t been recorded.  If you don’t match an Income account to the Expense account for which you invoice reimbursable expenses as described in the first method, you’ll end up with the result of this approach – except that your markup will be sent to a different General Ledger account.

Under this method, after setting the preference discussed above, record vendor bills normally from the Vendors->Enter Bills menu selection.  On the Enter Bills window, record required vendor bill information, but be sure to record a Memo for the transaction.  Like the first method, the Memo you record will become the description on your customer invoice.  On the Expenses tab, choose your general ledger account number for this expense.  To make this expense a reimbursable expense, associate it with a Customer:Job by updating that field.  After doing so, the Billable? field will be checked by default.  Click Save & Close or Save & New to record the transaction.

As discussed above, click on the Customers->Invoice for Time & Expenses menu selection to display a list of all customers with unbilled reimbursable expenses.  Choose the customer you are invoicing for reimbursable expenses, and click the Create Invoice button.  QuickBooks will display the Create Invoices screen for that customer, pre-filled with the Memo and amount recorded with the original vendor bill.

Under this method, the vendor bill recorded a debit to the expense account, and the customer invoice recorded an equal and offsetting credit.  This approach generally is not recommended if the amount you charge customers for reimbursable expenses is greater than what your vendor bills you.  If you do elect to use this method, it’s a good idea to have a separate expense account for non-reimbursable expenses of the same type.  This allows you to monitor the balance in a separate reimbursable expense account, which should reach a $0 balance when all vendor bills and customer invoices are recorded.

When accounting for reimbursable expenses, keep in mind that if you delete or void the customer invoice for reimbursable expenses, the reimbursable expense remains marked as having been billed.  To change that status, you’ll need to modify the Billable? field in on the vendor bill.

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Comments

  1. TaxOdyssey says:

    Is there any way to get the Vendor Name to print on the invoice for the reimbursables expenses that automatically flow to the invoice?

  2. I’ve done this and linked all my expense to the corresponding income account. In testing, not only is there no description in the item field, but this is still netting in my expense account and in listing in the income account. What’s wrong?

  3. We are using method 3 with Enterprise, but just noticed that on the Job Cost reports by Class the offsetting customer invoice netting out against the expense is not being included in the job cost report, either as additional revenue or a reduction in COGS. Any way to get the invoice to show up and be included in the job cost reports? Thanks.

    • Our job cost reports are the Profit & Loss by Class reports. I thought it might have to do with the way we set up our Items, but I tested out in the sample service company and on there the invoices do show up in the P&L by Class reports. Any suggestions?

      • Chief Mechanic says:

        See my reply to your other comment. To make a helpful suggestion, post back with your QB version and edition, along with the base report you used plus any filters you applied. The Profit & Loss by Class report by default doesn’t include a filter for a specific name, so to turn this into a job cost report, are you adding a filter of a specific customer?

    • Chief Mechanic says:

      Check your filters for that report. If the report is capturing other revenue from that customer, it’s likely that your filters for your expense accounts aren’t including the account where you’re sending the additional revenue. If you think your filters are ok, post back with your ES version and edition and your exact filters for the job cost report, and we’ll take another look.

      • Hello. We are on Enterprise 12.0 release R8P and I did have a filter for a specific customer name. I removed the Name filter and the invoice information shows up correctly now. Now I understand…the rebill invoice was not invoiced to the customer but to a subcontractor (also set-up as a customer name for rebill purposes), so of course the name filter was preventing the info from showing up. Obvious error on our part when setting up the report….never too late to learn. Thanks for your help.

  4. I would like to use method 3 however my client wants me to separate the HST from each reimbursable expense. They would like a subtotal and the HST separate. Is this possible? How would you enter the expense and then the corresponding HST charge into the vendor bill?

    • Chief Mechanic says:

      I’m guessing by “HST” you mean harmonized sales tax, such as the Canadian HST? If your client pays the HST to the vendor (ie, it’s part of the reimbursable expense), what your client is looking to do doesn’t seem to be a good approach. Taxes can be accounted for in QB, but the expectation is that those taxes are paid by the company itself. If your client pays the HST to the vendor, your client is not incurring the HST liability – your vendor is. Nevertheless, you could separate the HST from each expense, record those expenses, create a subtotal item, and then add a new item for the HST and send that line item to a single account. It seems like a lot of extra work to make a client aware of the tax cost of reimbursable expenses. Am I missing a benefit to the approach your client is encouraging you to adopt?

  5. Jack Dorwart says:

    There is no “Create invoices from a list of time and expenses” line on the Time & Expense (company preferences’ tab. There is a Track reimbursed expenses as income tab, which is your second line in your example, but there is no first line talking about Create invoices from a list of time and expenses.

    What now?

    • Jack, what product (e. g., Pro, Premier, or Enterprise Solutions) and which version (e. g., 2010, 2011, or 2012) are you using? If you are using Premier, are you using an industry specific installation of Premier? And just to confirm, you’re running US QuickBooks? All of our examples are for the US product. Post back and we’ll confirm we’re looking at the same thing.

    • Jack, we’ve updated our article to clarify that these capabilities aren’t included in QuickBooks Pro, and we’ve added a link to our article on the feature differences between Pro and Premier. If you were counting on using those features, your solution is to consider upgrading to QuickBooks Premier. The data file formats are compatible, so you should have an easy transition. Discounts are available on our Buy QuickBooks page. We appreciate it can be frustrating to try to start using a capability only to discover it’s not in the product you own. It’s never fun to find it out this way. Hope that helps.

      • Is there a way to do this manually in QB Pro? That is without the Reimbursable Expenses feature in Premier?

        • It depends on what you mean by “do this.” If you want an automatic connection to easily invoice your customers/clients, then no, you can’t get that automatic connection with QB Pro. However, you could certainly do some of this using manual methods. For example, you could create a log using Microsoft Excel of all vendor bills that need to be charged to customers/clients. Then, use one of the methods discussed.

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