mdi-chevron-left Go Back Accounts Payable (AP)

Accounts Payable (AP)

Accounts payable encompasses the company's obligation to pay off short-term debts to its creditors or suppliers. It is a critical business function that ensures a firm's financial stability by managing outgoing funds, optimizing supplier terms, and preventing default on obligations. The management of accounts payable includes issuing payments for purchases made on credit, negotiating payment terms, and ensuring discounts are captured.

Business Glossary provided by

Accounts payable (AP) refers to the amounts owed by a business to its suppliers or creditors for goods or services received that have not yet been paid for. This account is listed under current liabilities on the balance sheet as it represents short-term financial obligations to be paid within a year. The management of accounts payable involves the process of receiving bills, verifying and recording invoices, and disbursing payments. Efficient management of accounts payable is crucial for maintaining good supplier relationships and optimizing cash flow.


The primary purpose of managing accounts payable is to ensure that a company pays its debts and invoices within the agreed payment terms, avoiding defaults. Proper management helps a business maintain its credit rating and avoid late fees, interest charges, and strained relationships with vendors. Additionally, accounts payable management can help a company maximize its cash flow by leveraging favorable payment terms.


A manufacturing company receives raw materials from several suppliers. As the company receives these materials, the amounts owed to each supplier are recorded as accounts payable. When the company pays these suppliers according to the terms of payment (e.g., net 30 days), the respective amounts are cleared from the accounts payable balance.

Related Terms:

  • Accounts Receivable: Money owed to a company by its customers for goods or services that have been delivered or used but not yet paid for.

  • Cash Flow: The total amount of money being transferred into and out of a business, especially affecting liquidity.

  • Credit Terms: The terms which dictate the time limit that a buyer can take before payment is due to the seller for goods or services purchased on credit.

  • Liability: A company's legal financial debts or obligations that arise during the course of business operations.


  1. What is the difference between accounts payable and accounts receivable?

    Accounts payable are liabilities, representing money a company owes to its suppliers, while accounts receivable are assets, representing money that customers owe to the company.

  2. How can efficient accounts payable management benefit a business?

    Efficient management helps maintain good vendor relationships, take advantage of early payment discounts, improve creditworthiness, and ensure optimal use of cash flow.

  3. What happens if accounts payable are not paid on time?

    Late payments can lead to late fees, damage supplier relationships, negatively affect credit terms, and might even lead to legal actions from creditors.

  4. How is accounts payable recorded in accounting?

    Accounts payable are recorded on the balance sheet under current liabilities. When an invoice is received, the corresponding expense is recorded, and the accounts payable balance increases. When payment is made, cash is decreased and accounts payable is decreased.

  5. Can accounts payable be negotiable?

    Yes, payment terms may sometimes be negotiable. Companies can negotiate terms that suit their cash flow needs better, such as extended payment terms or early payment discounts.

View Glossary Writing a Business Plan?

Starting or Running a Business?

Generate a business plan in minutes.

Get Started
Business Owner