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. A voucher is essentially the backup documents for accounts payable. Accounts payable are the short-term bills owed by companies to vendors and suppliers.

The voucher is important because it's an internal accounting control mechanism that ensures that every payment is properly authorized and that the goods or services purchased are actually received.

Key Takeaways

  • A voucher is a document used by a company’s accounts payable department containing the supporting documents for an invoice.
  • A voucher is essentially the backup documents for accounts payable, which are bills owed by companies to vendors and suppliers.
  • Documents in a voucher can include the supplier's invoice, amount owed, due date, general ledger accounts, and shipping receipts.
  • All of the amounts of outstanding vouchers owed are totaled, and the one lump sum is recorded as accounts payable on the balance sheet.

How Vouchers Work

Companies have various short-term financial obligations to suppliers and vendors throughout an accounting period. A company might need to buy inventory or raw materials from suppliers that are used in the production of the company's goods. The suppliers essentially grant an extension of credit to the company allowing for payment to be made in the near future such as 30, 60, or 90 days.

A voucher is a form that includes all of the supporting documents showing the money owed and any payments paid to a supplier or vendor for an outstanding payable. The voucher and the necessary documents are recorded in the voucher register. Some of the supporting documents in a voucher can include:

  • Invoice from the supplier
  • Vendor or supplier name to be paid
  • Terms for payment such as the amount owed, the due date, and any discounts granted by the supplier for paying the invoice early
  • The company's purchase order
  • Receipt showing that goods were received by the company from the supplier
  • The general ledger accounts to be used for accounting purposes
  • Signatures from authorized representatives at the company for the purchase and payment
  • Proof of payment and date once the invoice to the supplier has been paid

The total amount of all the vouchers that have outstanding balances owed are recorded as accounts payable on the balance sheet. Once the voucher has been paid, the proof of payment is included in the voucher and recorded as a paid voucher.

How Vouchers Are Helpful

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. Vouchers document 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. Vouchers also justify the firm’s cash payments to vendors and documents the general ledger accounts used to post the transaction.

Using a voucher system also reduces the risk of employees colluding to steal company assets. Businesses employ segregation of duties to prevent employee theft, which means that critical tasks are assigned to different people within the organization. The voucher documents that the tasks are performed by multiple people and creates a paper trail so that an auditor can confirm that the duties were properly segregated.

Example of a Voucher

A local restaurant orders meat and fish every few days from its 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, which is a cover page that explains the attached documents, includes the purchase order, shipping receipt, and the invoice. The purchase amount is added and recorded to accounts payable on the balance sheet until paid. The owner reviews all the voucher information before signing a check.

The voucher also includes 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. The receipt of payment and the date is recorded to show that the voucher has been paid. Accounts payable will reflect the lower balance due to the invoice being paid, assuming there are no additional payables generated.