What is a 'Voucher'
A voucher is a document used by a company’s accounts payable department to gather and file all of the supporting documents needed to approve the payment of a liability. The voucher is an internal accounting control, which ensures that every payment is properly authorized and that the goods or services purchased are actually received.
BREAKING DOWN 'Voucher'
Every business maintains written procedures for each of the company’s routine accounting tasks. One task is the process of approving and paying vendor invoices and copies of certain documents must support each payment.
Examples of Vouchers
Assume that a restaurant orders meat and fish every few days from vendors. The restaurant manager fills out a purchase order for 30 pounds of meat and the owner initials the purchase order to approve the shipment. When the shipment is received, the contents of the shipment are compared with the purchase order to ensure that the shipment matches what was ordered. The restaurant completes a shipping receipt to document the process and the shipping receipt is compared with the vendor’s invoice.
The voucher includes a cover page that explains each attachment and the purchase order, shipping receipt and the invoice are attached to the voucher. The owner reviews all of the voucher information before signing a check and the voucher may also list the general ledger accounts used to record the transaction. The restaurant, for example, can credit (increase) the meat inventory account and debit (decrease) the cash account to record the payment.
How Vouchers Support an Audit
The company’s vouchers serve as a key source of evidence when an audit is performed. An auditor performs a set of procedures to determine if the financial statements are free of material misstatement. A voucher documents that the goods purchased were actually received, which supports the auditor’s assertion that the goods and services posted to the financial statements truly exist. The voucher also justifies the firm’s cash payments to vendors and documents the general ledger accounts used to post the transaction.
Factoring in Fraud Prevention
Using a voucher system also reduces the risk of employees colluding to steal company assets. Businesses use the concept of segregation of duties to prevent employee theft, which means that critical tasks are assigned to different people within the organization. Using the restaurant example, the manager fills out the purchase order, the owner approves the order and a third party compares the items received to the vendor invoice. The voucher documents that the tasks are performed by three different people and creates a paper trail so that an auditor can confirm that the duties are properly segregated.