The difference between an invoice and a statement

A customer may receive an invoice and a statement from a supplier. What is the difference between these two documents? When a seller issues an invoice to a buyer, the invoice is related to a specific sale transaction where goods or services were provided to the buyer. Since the invoice relates to a specific sale transaction, it itemizes all of the information the buyer needs to know in order to pay the seller, including:

  • Invoice number
  • Invoice date
  • Item description
  • Item price
  • Shipping and handling charges
  • Sales tax
  • Total amount payable
  • Remit to address
  • Payment terms and early payment discount terms (if any)

The intent of an invoice is either to collect payment from the buyer, or to create evidence of the sale (if payment was made in advance or in cash). If payment was made at the time of sale, the invoice is stamped "Paid" before issuing it to the buyer.

When a seller issues a statement, the document itemizes all invoices that have not yet been paid by the buyer, as well as partial payments. In this case, the intent is to remind the buyer that it has an obligation to pay the seller. Since the statement is more aggregated than an invoice, it provides less detailed information at the invoice level. It typically includes the following items:

  • Statement date
  • Invoice numbers
  • Invoice dates
  • Invoice totals

A more sophisticated statement will aggregate invoice totals by time bucket, so that overdue invoices are clearly shown.

Invoices are issued whenever a sale has been completed, so they may be issued every day and in significant quantities. However, statements are usually only issued at regular intervals, such as once a month, as part of a company's collection activities.

From the perspective of the buyer, the receipt of an invoice triggers an accounting transaction, which is an account payable. Conversely, the receipt of a statement is strictly informational - it does not trigger the creation of an accounting transaction.

It can be unwise to treat a statement as an invoice and pay items listed on the statement, since it is possible that the buyer already paid for those items, but the payment has not yet been reflected in the seller's accounting system. A better alternative for the buyer is to make inquiries about any invoices that are listed on the statement, and obtain more detailed information before issuing a payment.

There can be some confusion between the invoice and statement terms when dealing with credit card providers, since they issue a "statement" that is actually an invoice.