What Does an Accounts Payable Clerk Do?

ByVladana Donevski
November 18,2021

Getting your house in order is essential - especially if the house is your business paperwork. 

And while some companies hire a team of accountants to take the burden and handle it, not all businesses have the resources to do that. Most of the time, one clerk is enough. If you’ve been thinking: “What does an accounts payable clerk do?” and whether you need one at all, read on.

We'll get into more detail about what accounts payable are, why it’s crucial to have someone to handle them, and what kind of person you should be looking for to hire for the job. Not everyone is suitable for the position, given that you’ll have to trust them with your business’s paperwork. Obviously, you don’t want your company to go under because of sloppy bookkeeping.

What Are Accounts Payable?

In short, accounts payable are invoices - money, really - your company owes to another provider of goods or services. Any invoice that has not yet been paid is considered accounts payable for your company.

This usually happens when companies use credit to purchase goods or services. Essentially, your company, as a customer, is legally obliged to pay it up within a year - you have an IOU to a particular company. It’s a current liability that your business needs to pay up to avoid default. This is an account payable for your company, and for the company you owe payment to, it’s an account receivable. So, basically, the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable lies in the standpoint.

But what does having accounts payable mean for your business? It is a vital piece of every company’s balance sheet. The increase in the accounts payable implies that the company relies on credit a lot, while a decrease means it’s paying off debts faster. In essence, it’s an excellent way to keep track of your company’s checking account and cash flow.

Still, as with any other credit, paying it up in due time is a good practice. Not only will you avoid accruing debt, but it’ll also positively impact any relationship you might have with those companies and vendors.

What Does an Accounts Payable Clerk Do?

Handling all the invoices and payments can take up a lot of your time. It’s an exacting process, error-prone, and can result in wasting time and nerves, which you could put to better use to grow your business and handle more critical aspects of your business. 

Now, what can an account clerk help you with daily? Think of all the day-to-day financial transactions, processing payments, verifying invoices, classifying, and recording the data about them. Keeping an eye out for all the changes in financial policies and procedures and staying up to date is something an accounts payable specialist can take off your plate as well. 

The person you hire will also be responsible for processing outgoing payments, tracking purchase orders, and handling employees’ salaries. Reconciling the ledger at the end of the month to ensure everything is accounted for and correctly entered is another of the accounts payable duties. Managing the payment of vendor invoices before they are due is another task they’ll handle instead of you. The clerk should also present you with accurate reports detailing the status of all accounts payable. Another one of the accounts payable clerk’s duties is to investigate and reconcile invoice discrepancies that may occur. 

A good accounts clerk should be acquainted with the relevant regulation, ensuring you don’t inadvertently break the law. In some companies, dealing with vendor accounts, including questions and possible problems, is entirely in the clerk’s capable hands. Ultimately, it’s up to the clerk to continually find ways to improve this process, report any unusual activity, and develop solutions regarding any issues that may occur with the paperwork.

Now that we’ve given the overall accounts payable clerk job description let’s see what kind of person would be a perfect fit.

What Are the Necessary Skills of an Account Clerk?

We’ve already mentioned all the calculations the clerk should handle, so being proficient or at least fluent in financial operations is a must. As with anything related to money, the person applying for this position must have strong attention to detail.

Now, the duties of an account clerk are varied, so another thing to pay attention to is the person’s organizational skills, especially if the company has numerous employees or deals with plenty of vendor accounts. The accounts payable clerk must handle contracts, invoicing, payments, and resolve any issues without overlooking anything in a highly error-prone job. Therefore, a patient and thorough person is an ideal pick.

Next, in terms of practical skills, apart from being proficient in math and finances, the clerk should also be well-versed in budgeting and statistical examination. PC and data entry skills are also mandatory since long gone are the days of manually writing everything down. If we’re going to take it to another level, familiarity with the most popular accounting software such as QuickBooks, Xero, or Zoho Books, for example, are mandatory skills to hire someone for the accounts payable position.

Can I Use Some of the Available Software Instead?

There’s been a significant expansion of software that helps you handle account payables in the last couple of years, from automating accounts payable and receivable to comprehensive bookkeeping solutions for small businesses. Companies such as NetSuite and Quickbooks already have wide user bases, so it’s safe to say that this software is effective in helping business owners keep their books in order.

While these solutions perfectly fulfill several duties listed in an accounts payable job description, they are still far from being able to replace humans entirely and require manual input. Yes, a large portion of the job is now automated, but the software won’t do everything by itself. A clerk or an experienced virtual assistant still needs to supervise it and ensure everything is in order.

The First Person on Your Future Accounting Team

Overall, accounts payable, together with other paperwork, are an important part of every business. It’s vital to have an experienced and reliable person to handle them. Many small-business owners are tempted to cut the costs and do themselves a big part of what would typically be accounts payable clerk’s responsibilities, losing time and patience instead of making strategic decisions and running their businesses. Hiring the right person for the job, especially in the era of excellent job posting sites, is a rather simple process bound to pay off in the long run.

For small-to-medium companies, this role represents the first step toward building an entire team that will handle accounting once the company expands. Having a detail-oriented person who is well-versed in finances and accounting software and systematic is a big part of achieving the goal of going big in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions
What skills are needed to be an accounts payable clerk?

Being an accounts payable includes a number of both soft and hard skills. For example, a good clerk should be well-versed in math, finances, and financial regulation and be familiar with accounting software. In addition to that, being good at this job requires meticulous attention to detail and exceptional organizational skills, especially if we’re talking about a large company dealing with many vendors. Some positions require the clerks to handle the communication with vendors altogether, meaning that good communication skills are also valuable.

How much do accounts payable clerks make?

The salary range for the position of an account clerk is quite broad, especially when all aspects are taken into consideration. Years on the job and the amount of experience are usually crucial, together with familiarity with accounting software used, data typing speed and accuracy, and soft skills. The size of the company is also relevant. It’s estimated that the average salary for such a position is approximately $36,700. That said, it can go up to $60,000. 

What is the difference between an accounts payable clerk and a specialist?

There is a big difference between a clerk and a specialist in this case, as their responsibilities vary greatly. A specialist handles and manages financial records. On the other hand, a clerk has to have bookkeeping and accounting skills to prepare and manage invoices, bills, and financial statements.

What are the duties and responsibilities of accounts payable?

Think of it as a single-person bookkeeping and accounting service your company needs to ensure the paperwork is all in order. The duties may vary depending on the company. Read our “What Does an Accounts Payable Clerk Do?” article for an in-depth description of the position.

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