Purchase Order vs. Invoice: Understanding the Key Differences

Key takeaways

  • A purchase order (PO) is a buyer-initiated document that outlines the details of an intended purchase, while an invoice is a seller-generated request for payment after the goods or services have been delivered.
  • Invoices are formal requests for payment issued by sellers to buyers, outlining the details of the transaction and the amount due.
  • Purchase orders help establish clarity, avoid misunderstandings, streamline the procurement process, and facilitate record keeping and auditing.
  • Invoices aid in payment tracking, financial planning, promoting timely payments, and simplifying accounting processes.

Understanding purchase orders

What is a purchase order?

A purchase order (PO) is a legally binding document issued by a buyer to a seller, indicating the intent to purchase goods or services. It serves as a formal offer outlining the details of the transaction, including item descriptions, quantities, prices, payment terms, and delivery information. The primary purpose of a purchase order is to initiate a contractual agreement between the buyer and the seller, ensuring that both parties are aware of the terms and conditions governing the transaction.

Key components of a purchase order

1. Buyer and seller information

A purchase order typically includes the names, addresses, and contact details of both the buyer and the seller. This information helps in identifying the parties involved in the transaction and establishes clear lines of communication.

2. PO number and date

Each purchase order is assigned a unique identification number and is accompanied by a date of issuance. These details are crucial for record-keeping and tracking purposes, allowing for easy reference and retrieval of information when needed.

3. Item descriptions and quantities

A purchase order provides a detailed description of the goods or services being ordered. It includes specific product names, specifications, part numbers (if applicable), and the desired quantities. This level of detail ensures accuracy and helps avoid any confusion during the fulfilment process.

4. Pricing and payment terms

The purchase order specifies the agreed-upon prices for the items or services being purchased. It may also outline any applicable discounts, taxes, or additional charges. Furthermore, payment terms, such as the method and timeline for payment, are often included to establish mutual understanding between the buyer and the seller.

5. Delivery information

To facilitate smooth logistics, a purchase order includes delivery instructions, such as the desired delivery location and date. This information helps the seller coordinate the shipment or provision of services effectively.

Use cases and benefits

Clarity and avoidance of misunderstandings

By clearly documenting the buyer's requirements and the seller's agreement to fulfil them, purchase orders help minimise miscommunication and prevent disputes.

Legal protection

Purchase orders serve as legally binding agreements, protecting the interests of both parties in case of any disagreements or breaches of contract.

Streamlined procurement process

By standardising the procurement process, purchase orders enable efficient management of inventory, budgeting, and vendor relationships.

Record keeping and auditing

Purchase orders provide a paper trail that aids in record keeping, facilitates auditing, and simplifies financial reporting.

Understanding invoices

What is a receipt?

An invoice is a document issued by a seller to a buyer, requesting payment for goods or services provided. It serves as a formal request for payment, outlining the details of the transaction and the amount due. Unlike purchase orders, which are initiated by the buyer, invoices are generated by the seller after the goods or services have been delivered.

Key components of an invoice

1. Seller and buyer information

Similar to purchase orders, invoices contain the contact details of both the seller and the buyer. This information ensures accurate identification of the parties involved and facilitates communication regarding payment matters.

2. Invoice number and date

Every invoice is assigned a unique identification number, which aids in tracking and referencing the document. Additionally, the invoice includes the date of issuance, helping both parties maintain a clear timeline of the transaction.

3. Description and quantity of goods/services

An invoice provides a comprehensive description of the goods or services provided, including item names, specifications, and quantities. This clarity allows the buyer to verify the accuracy of the delivered items and ensures proper payment allocation.

4. Pricing and payment details

The invoice specifies the unit prices, total amounts, and any applicable taxes or discounts. It also outlines the payment terms, such as the due date and acceptable payment methods, ensuring a smooth and transparent payment process.

Use cases and benefits

Facilitates payment tracking

Invoices provide a clear record of the goods or services delivered, allowing buyers to verify and reconcile their payments accurately.

Enables financial planning

By providing detailed information on the cost of goods or services, invoices help buyers plan their budgets effectively.

Promotes timely payments

The issuance of invoices reminds buyers of their outstanding obligations, reducing the likelihood of delayed or missed payments.

Simplifies accounting processes

Invoices serve as essential documents for accounting purposes, aiding in bookkeeping, financial reporting, and tax compliance.

Purchase Order vs. Invoice - FAQs

Have you ever thought about invoice finance to help improve your cash flow?

Invoice finance allows you to release cash quickly from your unpaid invoices.

As your lender, we can release up to 90% of your invoices within 24 hours. On payment of the invoice from your customers, we will then release the final amount minus any fees and charges. There are different types of invoice financing options available to businesses depending on the situation and the level of control they require in collecting unpaid invoices.

We are an invoice financing company who offer a solution whereby payments are collected on your behalf managed by our team of expert credit controllers so you can focus on running your business. Our Confidential Invoice Discounting solution is offered to businesses who want to maintain their own credit control processes, therefore this remains strictly confidential so your customers are unaware of our involvement.

Get in touch

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The benefits of invoice finance companies such as Novuna Business cash flow

  • Boost your cash flow without having to wait up to 120 days for your customers to pay you

  • Release up to 90% of the invoice straight away, and the final 10% when the invoice is settled

  • Access funds within 24 hours from initial appointment with our revolutionary digital onboarding process

  • Benefit from our in-house credit control processes, allowing you to focus on running your business, instead of chasing clients for payment

  • Six month trial period followed by a rolling contract

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