CPA Insight: Purchase Orders for Job Costing in QuickBooks

Many businesses don’t use Purchase Orders unless they order products to resell, but Purchase Orders can be a big help in many ways.

If you’re a larger organization, it’s a way to track what is due to you AND how much it should cost. If you’re a contractor, Purchase Orders can be a big help. You can use them to track the materials needed for the job. Then you can run a report to see what all is due to you for your various jobs.

You can also use these if you work with subcontractors. It can be a great way to track what the sub quoted, keep up with the subs, and see what the final cost is compared to estimated. Another benefit is that some subs are slow to invoice (I personally find that hard to believe, but I know it’s prevalent in the contract world), so you can use these to know costs and maybe help the sub get an invoice to you. Since many of them don’t like the paperwork side of the business, this can speed up the process.

Another reason for using Purchase Orders in the contractor’s world when working with QuickBooks® is that Purchase Orders force you to use Items. Items are key to job cost reports. Since a Purchase Order uses Items, then when the materials and bill come in, you simply work off the PO and the Items will be pulled in for you.

First step is to be sure your Purchase Order feature is turned on in the Company Preferences. Click on Edit>Preferences>Items & Inventory.

Creating a Purchase Order will be very similar to creating invoices: Either click on the Purchase Order icon in the vendor section on the home page or click on Vendors>Create Purchase Orders. If for any reason you do not have a column for the Customer:Job, then you’ll need to edit the layout of the template.

Next, select the vendor and enter the Items.

As materials come in or work is done, you will receive a bill (and a packing list if materials are involved). Because Purchase Orders are often for materials, there are two parts – (1) acknowledging the receipt of the materials (or service) along with how many/much you received, and then (2) entering the bill (similar to Progress Invoicing). In QuickBooks you have the option of receiving the Items and entering the bill all at one.

If you simply click on the Enter Bills icon instead of Receiving Inventory, you will be asked if you want to receive against the PO you have with the vendor. Click Yes, select the PO and then the products/services you received.

If you are in Pro or Premier, the difference between the bill and an Item Receipt is the box by “Bill Received.”  If you are in Enterprise, you have an option to receive inventory on one day and have a different date for the bill, but this is not needed if you are simply purchasing services or materials for a job – even if you have materials left over to use on other jobs.

You can view open Purchase Orders from the Purchases, Job Cost or Contractor report menus, including by Vendor or Job.  You can also create an Open Purchase Order by Job Detail report when you use the Custom Transaction Detail feature.

Using Purchase Orders for jobs can help you track services and materials not received yet, which helps you monitor your upcoming costs on a project.

About the Author

Monica Muir

Monica Muir

Monica Muir, owner of Muir & Associates, has been working in QuickBooks for 20 years. Advanced Certified in QuickBooks and an Intuit Premier Reseller, she specializes in helping contractors job cost better and streamline workflow through training and consulting. She has spoken at several landscape conferences (state, regional & national), and often writes for contractor publications.

See all posts