A common problem for many inventory-based businesses is recording receipt of inventory before that inventory is billed to a customer. In retail settings, pressure to promptly take care of customers can lead to pressure to produce an invoice that hasn’t yet been received. Since producing an invoice is often a necessary first step to getting paid, many firms prioritize invoicing over properly receiving inventory. When invoicing results in inventory levels going negative, the results are inaccurate financial reports.
To see how, let’s start with the sample data included with QuickBooks for a products-based business, Castle Rock Construction. First, let’s review the firm’s Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss before we make any transactions. We start with a total inventory value of $30,121.33. Our starting cost of goods sold is $3,610.50. Castle Rock has incurred costs of $10,211.23 for customer Kathy Abercrombie, the customer we plan to invoice. Next, let’s add a new inventory item called “COGS Test” with an opening balance of 5 units costing $5 each. QuickBooks debits inventory for $25 and automatically posts an offsetting credit of $25 to Opening Balance Equity; both entries are marked as reconciled. Our opening balances before creating the new inventory item are shown below.
warn us that we’re attempting to sell inventory that we don’t have, but we’ll ignore this warning. That’s where our trouble will begin.
At the time of the sale, QuickBooks had information on the average cost to that point in time. That cost was $5.00. But what if our cost for the item had changed and was now something other than $5.00? We can imagine that if we had to scramble to get this item for the Abercrombie order, we faced higher costs. Let’s enter a bill for 20 units dated after the date of the Abercrombie invoice. The date is very important, as we’ll soon see. The 20 units we received cost $7.50 each, or 50% more than our normal cost. Here’s our Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss after entering the vendor receipt.
By letting inventory reach negative levels, QuickBooks accounted for the transaction as if we sold 5 units that cost $5 each and 5 units that cost $7.50. In effect, even though QuickBooks uses the average cost method, this transaction was treated on a First In First Out (FIFO) basis.1 A look at the Transaction Journal for the bill confirms this. Once we entered the new inventory at higher cost, QuickBooks automatically applied the extra cost of $2.50 per unit to the 5 units that we did not have in stock. Our cost of goods sold is now $3,673.00, an increase of $62.50. Our total costs for customer Abercrombie are $10,261.23, and our inventory value is $30,233.83.
We obtain totally different results if we record the bill for receiving inventory before invoicing the customer. Our cost of goods sold in this case is $3,680.50, or $7.50 higher than reported by allowing inventory to reach negative levels. Our inventory value is $30,226.33, or $62.50 higher than reported when we recorded the invoice before the bill. Our costs for customer Abercrombie are now $70 higher than when we started.
All of these differences are due to the fact that by entering an invoice before a bill, we prevented QuickBooks from correctly calculating the average cost for our new inventory item. After all, we can’t expect QuickBooks to calculate average cost before we’ve entered that cost. By first entering the bill for inventory receipt and then recording the invoice, we stick to our inventory cost assumption. We started with 5 units costing $5 each, and we added 20 units costing $7.50. That produced an average cost of $7 for each of our 20 units. The results reported by entering transactions in the proper sequence are consistent with that average cost.
|Account||Invoice Before Bill ($)||Invoice After Bill ($)||Difference ($)|
|Cost of goods sold||3,673.00||3,680.50||7.50|
|Item average cost||7.50||7.00||0.50|
The bottom line: when customer invoices are entered before vendor bills, your financial reports will be inaccurate. In our example, overall cost of goods sold, customer costs, and inventory were under-reported. That resulted in overstating income. Our average cost for the new item was reported as $7.50, rather than the $7.00 obtained by applying the average cost method consistently. We built our example around a discussion of this problem in the QuickBooks knowledge base.
If you’ve already made the mistake of entering invoices before bills that have resulted in negative inventory levels, we can help get your financial reporting back on an accurate track.
- In August 2008, the SEC announced that some companies can report under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by 2010 and that all companies will be required to do so by 2014. IFRS, unlike US GAAP, requires FIFO costing where individual items are not identifiable. [↩]