What are source documentsand why does my business need them? McKeown Kraai Professional, CPAs

This section provides an overview and description of the source documents themselves. They come in many shapes and sizes, but they can be split into three categories. Scholarly sources are written by experts in their field and are typically subjected to peer review.

For preliminary research like definitions and broad overviews, you might consult an encyclopedia or a website. For original insights or an in-depth analysis of your topic, you might consult scholarly books and journal articles. When a consumer pays their bill, they send a remittance advice to the supplier that includes the payment amount and the invoice numbers. If payment is made using internet banking, it will either be posted along with the check or separately. The order form could be as straightforward as a page cut out of a duplicate book or it could also be one that the seller provides through its online store or catalogue.

A form is provided by the bank to its customers or account holders at the time of depositing the cash or cheque at the bank. On the sale of goods on credit, the seller of the goods prepares a sales invoice. It is prepared in three copies, the first one is delivered to the buyer, the second one is kept in the bundle of goods, the third copy is retained by the seller for future reference. It contains the details like the name of the purchaser, description of goods sold, i.e. quantity and price of the units sold, total amount, and tax. The Internal Revenue Service mandates retention intervals for some types of documents related to payroll. If there is any question regarding the retention period for a document, consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

Source documents definition

They may be the only record of certain transactions, such as payments made directly into the bank account of a supplier by a customer through the banking system (a BACS transfer). In very small businesses, such as those that buy everything for cash, the only record of purchases will be the till receipt for payment. The key source document relating to credit sales made by customer deposit definition the business is the invoice. Popular sources like magazines and news articles are typically written by journalists. These types of sources usually don’t include a bibliography and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience. They are not always reliable and may be written from a biased or uninformed perspective, but they can still be cited in some contexts.

It’s advised to keep your source documents for five to seven years for tax purposes, though rules will differ. According to the IRS, small businesses must preserve any documentation that substantiates deductions, income, and credits until the statute of limitations for that particular tax return has run out. Once the information in a source document has been recorded in the accounting system, the source document is indexed for easy access and archived. Documents generated within the past year are generally stored on-site, with older documents being stored in less expensive off-site storage facilities. Many businesses nowadays and even government organisations are using the IRS standard for the complete, legible and accurate generation of original documents. In this case, the cheque and the receipt are the source documents, i.e., evidence that such a transaction has taken place.

  • Without this information to back up your business transactions, your accountant doesn’t have the full financial picture needed to prove that you earned every bit of your tax refund or qualify for a small business loan.
  • With no source documents to match transactions in reconciled statements, there may not be sufficient documentation to satisfy auditors, which can cause serious problems for your clients.
  • If employee hours are being billed to customers, then it also supports the creation of customer invoices.
  • For every financial transaction, a business keeps evidence in the form of a generated paper trail or digital trail.

The customer could request quotes for the goods it wishes to purchase from other sellers. A selection over which seller to purchase the product from will be made after considering and weighing the estimates, typically based on who is the least expensive. However, scanned documents can be accepted if they show the exact details of the original ones and there is no way of manipulation. However, in some circumstances, photocopies or computer-generated copies could be maintained (it has been legally allowed now).

What is Financial Statements? Definition, Nature, Objectives, Types, Importance, Limitations

The successful supplier will then convert the quote into a sales invoice after an order has been placed. This documentary evidence contains the nature of the transaction, the name, and address of parties, date and amount of transaction, etc. Sayer believes the government’s instructions for public submissions will deter members of the public wanting to help, particularly the threat from the inquiry that documents not supplied in a certain format “will be disregarded”.

What is a source document?

A supplier invoice also supports the recordation of an expense, inventory item, or fixed asset. A Bank Reconciliation Statement includes all transactions that have affected an account, dates of the transactions, the current balance, and any discrepancies. A source document is one record used to create accounting transaction records (e.G., Invoices).


Let’s explore the importance of source documents, and how you can introduce a more efficient system to collect and manage source documents at your practice. If you’d like to understand the importance of a paper trail for a business owner, this quick primer is for you. And if your accountant or bookkeeper’s smile turns the slightest bit strained when you tell them you don’t have documentation for all your transactions, you should definitely start reading. Note that the purchase order and dispatch note are not records from which accounting transactions should be entered. Papers that your business obtains from other people or businesses are referred to as external source documents. It’s vital that you make sure you’re reporting the correct transaction date, and payer.

For example, when using an optical scanner, the document being scanned is considered the source document. Ask a question about your financial situation providing as much detail as possible. We follow strict ethical journalism practices, which includes presenting unbiased information and citing reliable, attributed resources. Finance Strategists is a leading financial education organization that connects people with financial professionals, priding itself on providing accurate and reliable financial information to millions of readers each year. You’ll likely use a variety of these sources throughout the research process, and the kinds of sources you use will depend on your research topic and goals. Your institution’s library will likely contain access to a wide selection of each.

They usually contain a description of a business transaction, the date of the transaction, a specific amount of money, and an authorizing signature. Many source documents are also stamped to indicate an approval, or on which to write down the current date or the accounts to be used to record the underlying transaction. Any information generated through source documents should be properly recorded in either the company’s journal, accounting software, or financial books. After the initial recording, all documents should be preserved and organized into a file and put into a system so they can be retrieved at any time. It is also important to make a record of general internal control procedures specifying who in the firm can access and authorize payments, orders, and other transactions.

Lockbox check images support the recordation of cash receipts from customers. Nevertheless, newspapers can help when you need information on recent topics or events that have not been the subject of in-depth academic study. Archives of older newspapers can also be useful sources for historical research. However, news articles are not always reliable and may be written from a biased perspective or with the intention of promoting a political agenda. News articles usually do not cite their sources and are written for a popular, rather than academic, audience.

Other documents, from SS headquarters and dated 1943, suggest that significantly more prisoners are likely to have died on Alderney than the official death toll of nearly 400. The direct written order by the head of the SS is the first known instruction to show that plans were drawn up to annihilate all of the occupants of the only Nazi concentration and labour camps to exist on British soil. If all other sites open fine, then please contact the administrator of this website with the following information.

When this occurs, you might have to contact your client to get the details, which could become more time-consuming and tedious than if you had initially collected the receipts. Regardless of the situation, not having source documents will make reconciliation more complicated and can hurt client relations. If the majority of your client interactions involve clarification, clients might struggle to see the value you provide to their business and become frustrated by the frequent back-and-forth communication. When you collect receipts, invoices, and bills as a standard part of your bookkeeping workflow, you’ll be better preparing your clients for an audit because all documents will be readily available. Fortunately, digital images are acceptable as source documents in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

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