The ultimate AP/AR FAQ for accounting firms

A list of commonly asked AP/AR questions

Table of contents

What are AP and AR? What is the difference between them?

AP stands for Accounts Payable, which refers to the money that a business owes to their suppliers and vendors. AR stands for Accounts Receivable, which is the money that a business is owed by customers. 

What is automated AP? 

AP automation, or accounts payable automation, uses automation technologies and digital processes to streamline the accounts payable process. It improves a finance team's efficiency, making AP faster, more productive, and less costly.

Cloud-based technologies convert the manual processes of entering individual invoices and signing checks into digital systems. They read and store each invoice, manage billing communication, and make payments, all from one accounts payable solution that can be accessed remotely.

How does it help my firm?

AP automation saves accounting professionals a lot of hours—in fact, our customers report saving on average 50% of their AP time*. That's time you could spend working more strategically, investing in active growth.

Plus, it can significantly reduce errors. True AP automation applies machine intelligence to read and enter invoice data for review, flags potential issues like duplicate purchase orders, and syncs with your accounting software.

*Based on a 2021 survey of over 2000 BILL customers.

How does it benefit my clients? 

AP automation is more secure than manual systems. AP automation provides electronic payments, automated approval routing, a digital audit trail, and far better transparency than paper invoice management.

Cloud-based AP automation lets finance teams work remotely, with more control, visibility, and transparency than an office-based paper system. It lets busy executives ask questions, see each response, and approve invoices with ease, from anywhere, even on a mobile device.

What types of payments are offered with automated AP? 

Automating your client’s AP opens up their payment options, since everything can be tracked and viewed in the AP software. These types of payments are available on BILL:

  • BILL Balance: A virtual account that provides a flexible way to manage your client’s cash flow, with the options to make payments, large or small, as soon as the next business day—at no additional cost
  • BILL Pay by Card: ​​Pay domestic and international vendors with your credit card—even if they don’t accept cards—while earning your card’s rewards. Defer payments to increase your cash flow
  • Virtual Card: A free, easy, and fast way to make payments with confidence using your client’s BILL account. Your vendors receive a single-use, 16-digit virtual card number that they can process just like a credit card. A dedicated team of BILL specialists oversees transactions to ensure timely payment.
  • International Payments: Securely send payments to over 130 countries and over 100 currencies, saving you time, increasing productivity, and reducing costs.

Can you pay internationally with automated AP?

Yes! BILL currently supports international payments to 137 countries all over the world. Find the full list here of countries here.

How do digital payments differ from paper check payments?

When your client submits a paper check payment through BILL, we will print and mail the check for your clients. Or, your clients can submit digital payments, through methods such as ACH or Pay By Card.

Digital payments are more efficient than paper checks, as well as easier to track and reconcile. Where paper checks take 5-7 business days for USPS to deliver to vendors, digital payments are fully processed within 5 days—sometimes even the same day. Plus, digital payments can’t be stolen from the mail truck en route and scrubbed for fraudulent purposes.

What are the steps of the AP process?

  1. Capture: Your client receives invoices to their BILL AP inbox. AI codes them in real time.
  2. Approve: Your client can view and approve bills online from any device.
  3. Pay: 10 payment methods reduce cost and improve cash flow for your clients
  4. Sync: BILL syncs with your preferred accounting software with one simple click.

How does automated AP help my clients avoid AP fraud?

Automated AP includes systems to keep your clients’ finances more secure. An automated AP solution will check your client’s invoices to make sure they match up with their vendors’ information. Automated approval customizations help your client maintain separation of duties and reduce potential fraud by allowing them to control which bills need approval, by whom, and when, based on business need.

What is 3-way matching in accounts payable?

3-way matching is an automated AP process that matches a supplier invoice to the corresponding purchase order and order receipt to make sure that all the important details match up—such as addresses or item amounts. 3-way matching helps your client avoid fraud by making sure all invoices that get paid are legitimate.

How can I automate accounts payable for my clients?

The best way to automate your clients’ accounts payable is to set them up on an AP automation platform, such as BILL. 

What are the steps of the accounts receivable process?

  1. Create the invoice
  2. Send it to the customer
  3. Track the status and payment
  4. Receive payment

How can I automate accounts receivable for my clients?

The best way to automate your clients’ accounts receivable is to set them up on an AR automation platform, such as BILL. 

How do I know if my client is ready for digital AP/AR? 

As someone who works closely with your clients, you understand the value of ensuring your clients are well taken care of at all levels—from providing deep financial analysis to relieving them of daily bill management tasks. But how do you know when your clients need you to step in? What are the signs that they require automated bill pay services? Here are some indicators:

  • Messy approval chain and approval lags: If you notice longer lags in approval time, it’s highly likely that manual tasks (and bottlenecks) are a constant on the client side. In these cases, clients need to adopt an automated workflow using a solution that supports a unique, streamlined approval structure.
  • Slow payouts and strained vendor relationships: When the bill payment process is messy, it affects every interaction along the line—including paying vendors. For clients who have a history of slow payouts, you’ll sometimes also find contentious vendor relationships. After all, once products and services have been delivered, vendors expect to get paid in a timely manner.
  • Time consuming audit and compliance checks: When clients don’t have real-time access to data and documents, it significantly limits their ability to conduct fast and efficient audit checks and accurately track key information. 
  • Uptick in data errors: Mistakes are far more likely to occur when work is handled manually. Keying in data significantly increases the risk of human error and, subsequently, causes more issues down the line (i.e., account reconciliation). If you start detecting an uptick in errors when reviewing incoming client A/R and A/P data, it’s a good indicator that manual processes are in play and that those clients would benefit from an automated bill pay model.

How does automated AP help with audits?

BILL provides a suite of reports to help you and your clients get a clear picture of their accounts, and to help with audits. The Bill Approval Audit report contains the current and historical approval summary and applicable payment details per bill. 

How is AP/AR an advisory service?

AP/AR is a great starting point for CAS. In fact, 76% of our accounting customers said BILL allows their firm to better advise their clients*.

Automated AP and AR allows you to see all of your client’s upcoming bills, so you can help them set up a schedule for paying them that works with their cash flow. You can also advise your clients on best practices or setting up recurring AR payments.

*Based on a 2021 survey of over 500 accounting firm partners.

How can I learn more about how to monetize AP/AR advisory for my firm?

Our guide to pricing AP, AR, and spend management services is a great resource. You can also use other content in our Accountant Resource Center to learn how to market and build your CAS practice. 

How much should I charge for AP/AR advisory services?

What you charge for your firm’s AP/AR CAS will depend on many factors that are unique to your firm and your clients. But there are several models you can choose from:

  • Hourly billing: Time spent is time billed. Firms set an hourly rate, then charge clients for the time spent on engagement.
  • Flat rate and/or fixed fees: Whether based on a single project (flat rate) or a scope of services (fixed fees), these pricing models involve charging a set price for all clients
  • Value pricing: Set a price based on the client’s perceived value of the service. While this model offers a regular, recurring price for repeated services, prices are not consistent across clients.

Learn more about these models in our guide to pricing AP and other services.

How can I learn more about how to market AP/AR advisory to my clients?

Our Accountant Resource Center has a host of resources on how to manage your CAS practice, including specific information about how to market your CAS practice to your clients.

I’m interested in offering client advisory services. Where can I find more information?

We’re so glad that you want to learn more about spend management advisory. We have many resources on how you can add spend management advisory services to your firm and make them successful. We suggest starting with CPA.com’s 5 Steps to CAS Success, and then exploring the CAS resources on our Accountant Resource Center.

BILL AP/AR

How is BILL different from other AP/AR offerings? 

There are many platforms that offer ways to streamline or automate AP/AR operations. But as CPA.com’s preferred AP, Spend and Expense Management solution for firms, BILL is set apart from the other offerings. Over 85 of the top 100 US accounting firms partner with BILL*. 

Unlike other AP platforms that use third-party services to issue payments, BILL keeps your payment processing in-house. That lets you mask your banking information while giving you more control over your payments and better visibility into their status. Our system has exchanged over $200 billion in-house, while keeping our users accounts secure. Our network has grown to 5.8 million* members paying or getting paid through BILL.

One of the best unique offerings of the BILL Financial Operations Platform is our integrated suite of products. Together BILL Account Payable, Accounts Receivable, and BILL Spend & Expense help you automate your clients’ financial operations and help you—and your clients—gain more efficiency, control, and visibility.

*As of June 30, 2023

How can BILL help my clients get bills approved and paid more efficiently? 

The BILL financial operations platform is cloud based. This enables any authenticated approver or payer—that can be you or your client—in the system to access your client’s account from any location, as long as they have access to the internet. This means if your client is traveling, they don’t have to wait until they return before the stacks of checks can be signed. The approver can log into BILL using their laptop, or the BILL mobile app, to review all outstanding bills that need to be approved. Not only can bills be approved with a click of a button, they can also be paid as well. 

Do my client’s vendors have to use BILL in order to be paid using BILL?

Not exactly. Your client’s vendors do not need to have a BILL subscription in order to be paid. However, they will need to set up a free receivables account. Your client can send vendors an invitation to sign up for the free receivables account so that they are immediately able to process payment.

How does BILL ensure there is a clear separation of duties?

At BILL we understand that many businesses have various employees manage the finances and cash flow of the company. It is important to implement different levels of permissions and clearly separate duties. By default, BILL  allows 5 user roles, each of whom will have the proper permissions to perform tasks in the BILL platform that is critical to their function.

  • Administrators
  • Accountants
  • Clerks
  • Approvers
  • Payers

Using these roles, your client can customize BILL so that you can have access to view their finances but cannot make payments, and different managers only have view bills that their department is responsible for and not able to have access to any other parts of the business. You can view more information about exact permission levels of each of the default user roles.

If your client has specific needs that require more granularity in the permission settings, BILL also offers custom user roles that allow them to change specific permissions for various tasks. This will give them maximum flexibility in designing roles that will best fit their organization. You can view the list of permissions in our Custom User Roles section of our support page.

What types of payments are available with BILL AP/AR?

There are several types of payments available with BILL AP/AR. All of them are safe, thanks to advanced security tools and compliance protections.

Why would I encourage my clients to use virtual cards for bill pay?

Virtual cards keep your client’s information and their vendors’ information more secure. Because vendors receive a 16-digit Mastercard or Visa number to process payments, there’s no need to exchange bank account information. Plus, there are no transaction fees, and payments can be delivered faster than sending a check or via ACH.

Can my clients use their BILL Divvy cards to pay bills in BILL AP/AR?

Yes! Customers can use their BILL Divvy Corporate Card for all business expenses, including invoices in BILL. Customers can also pay invoices in BILL AP using their Spend & Expense line of credit. This feature is available for the majority of BILL customers, but some exclusions may apply. Ask your account manager for more details.

How does BILL simplify the accounts payable process for my clients?

BILL automates all of the accounts payable process, from end to end. Your client receives invoices from vendors or contractors via email, or they can scan and upload them to their digital inbox. From there, they simply create a new bill, enter a few quick details, and pay it via their preferred payment method like ACH, Card, Virtual Card, Wire, or Check. If a vendor or contractor prefers to receive paper checks, we’ll automatically print and mail those for your client.

How does BILL automate my clients’ account receivable process?

BILL automates your clients’ accounts receivable process by digitizing the way users go about paying them. BILL takes the accounts receivable process into the digital world for convenience and efficiency, and lets your clients accept domestic ACH, virtual card, or check.

BILL also assists businesses with their recurring invoices, payment reminders, overdue reminders. One of the most important features we provide is syncing received payments directly with your accounting software to eliminate any room for error.

Does BILL support international payments?

Yes! BILL currently supports international payments to 137 countries all over the world. Find the full list here of countries here.

How does BILL keep my clients’ information secure?

BILL is designed with your privacy and security in mind, providing six categories of protection to help guard your money and sensitive information. BILL helps protect against unauthorized access to your account by:

  • Enforcing a strong password policy
  • Applying 2-Factor Authentication
  • Sending login data over a secure channel
  • Automatically logging out customers after a period of inactivity
  • Educating our customers on the risks of business email compromise schemes

Learn more about BILL’s system security here.

How do I connect my clients’ bank account to BILL AP/AR?

BILL makes it easy to manage your client’s bank accounts, whether you’re using the desktop or mobile app. You should be a signer or have permission to authorize transactions on any bank accounts you add to your BILL account. When you add your bank account using your online banking login credentials, you make your bank account available for immediate use. Here’s how you manually add a bank account.

How do I manage multiple clients using BILL?

There are infinite ways that you can work with a client to help them manage their approvals workflow, but there are three primary models we recommend as a best practice:

  • The Participatory Model: a fully collaborative workflow where members of the firm and the business both play a role in the bill pay process. This is the most common model used.
  • The Non-Participatory Model: a fully outsourced model that creates much more lift for the firm.
  • The Client Ownership Model: keeps the ownership and responsibility in the hands of the client, while the firm oversees the process to make sure it is being managed properly

Does BILL AP/AR sync with my clients’ accounting software?

Yes! Learn more about how to sync with the most popular accounting softwares.

How does BILL help my clients avoid fraud?

We take security seriously at BILL, and we’ve designed our products with your client’s privacy and security in mind. Here are just a few of the ways BILL secures your client’s funds and account: 

  • Enforced separation of duties: By default, we allow 5 user roles, each of whom will have the proper permissions to perform tasks in the BILL platform that is critical to their function. You can view more information about exact permission levels of each of the default user roles.
  • Limited access to bank account information: 
  • Digital payments: This means fewer paper checks in the mail, which can be stolen and scrubbed for fraudulent activities
  • Vendor payments via the BILL account: Your client’s bank info is protected because the vendors will never see it

This is just a small part of what we do to keep your clients’ accounts secure. Read more about our security measures here.

I have a problem with the BILL Accounts Payable & Receivable software. Who can I contact for help?

We are sorry you’re having trouble! Please log into your BILL account to access the Help Center and Live Support.

How can BILL AP/AR save my clients time? 

Our customers report saving on average 50% of their AP time with BILL AP*. As each invoice comes in, BILL matches it to the right workflow and directs it to the right people for approval, handling that distribution automatically. Add as many controlled rules, roles, steps, and approval processes as you need.

Need to accelerate the release of that payment? Checking on the status of any invoice is easy. The platform shows you all the events associated and tracked with that transaction so you can locate exactly where it is at a glance. If there's an issue, you can answer any questions by adding a message right there in the app. Or send reminders to request timely approval and meet your payment cycle.

Users can even approve invoices on their mobile phone from anywhere using the BILL mobile app.

*Based on a 2021 survey of over 2000 BILL customers.

How can BILL AP/AR save my firm time? 

92% of our surveyed accounting customers said BILL helps them to work more efficiently.* 

Consider the time you're currently investing in repetitive tasks, such as manually entering and reviewing invoices. BILL AP/AR leverages automation to quickly import invoices, with little to no manual entry, and to approve invoices from recognized vendors. With advantages like this, financial operations automation allows you to spend more time on higher-value, year-round advisory work that builds positive, long-lasting client relationships. 

*Based on a 2021 survey of over 500 accounting firm partners.

Is there a BILL partner program for Accountants?

Yes! Partner with BILL and enjoy added benefits like wholesale pricing, the Accountant Console, a dedicated account manager, 100+ hours of exclusive NASBA accredited CPE content, and more. Join the BILL Accountant Partner Program here.

How can I sign my clients up for BILL AP/AR?

Once you’ve joined the BILL Accountant Partner Program, you’ll have access to the Accountant Console. You can add your clients to BILL AP/AR through the console.

What information do I need to get my clients started using BILL AP/AR? 

At minimum, you will need the following information to set up a client with BILL AP/AR:

  • Legal Company Name: must be the client's legal company name, or if it's an individual, their legal name.
  • Company Address: enter your client's info here, not your firm's
  • Company Phone: enter your client's info here, not your firm's
  • Mailing address: you can use your firm's info or the client's info here for checks, invoices, network profile, and other communications

How are other firms using BILL AP/AR?

Our partner firms are using BILL to add value to their firm’s offerings, build CAS practices, eliminate process bottlenecks, and much more. Read about our customers and how they use BILL on our Case Studies page.

Does BILL offer certifications and other training for BILL AP?

Yes! BILL offers a variety of training and education courses that provide CPE credit and the opportunity to learn. As a BILL accountant partner you have the opportunity to enroll in the BILL Certification online course, complete the Accounting Firm Growth Masterclass with Jason Blumer, get a discount on the CPA.com CAS Roadmap Workshop, and attend a webinar for CPE credit. 

How can I train my clients on BILL AP/AR?

One of the best ways to train your clients on how to use BILL is to take them on a tour of the product. Use our product walkthrough to show your client all the ways BILL can streamline their processes and save them hours of time.

Can I see all of my client’s expenses, accounts payable, and accounts receivable?

Yes! The BILL Financial Operations Platform allows you to automate more of your clients’ financial workflows, run them from one place, and sync seamlessly into your accounting software. It combines BILL Accounts Payable, BILL Accounts Receivable, and BILL Spend & Expense so that you and your clients can get a clear picture of every dollar they spend and receive in real time. Learn more about BILL Spend & Expense.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.