Credit notes are a common document in business transactions mostly used to correct items/services that were incorrectly invoiced before.
Note GnuCash makes a distinction between invoices and bills in the user interface. A bill is received from a vendor, while an invoice is sent to a customer. This distinction is only made to avoid user confusion. The document received from a vendor could just as well be called an invoice in accounting terms. For the remainder of this page I will only talk about invoices, but it can mean either bill or invoice in the GnuCash sense of the words.
From an accounting perspective a credit note is very similar to an invoice. The document has got all the same properties as an invoice, but the sign is reversed. When you send your customer an invoice, the customer owes you money. Yet when you send your customer a credit note, you owe your customer some money.
Since technically invoices and credit notes are that similar, it makes sense to treat both documents very similarly in GnuCash as well, at least in the processing. To avoid confusion the user interface could make a distinction between the two document types, but the user should be allowed more or lest the same set of actions on either.
At present, GnuCash doesn't really support credit notes. The workaround suggested is to make a payment to the vendor for the amount of the credit note received. In this way at least GnuCash knows the vendor owes you this amount of money and will substract it automatically from the next invoice(s). This is not optimal in several ways:
- There's no document tracking. GnuCash doesn't know anything about the credit note.
- Expense accounts aren't updated properly. Say the credit note was for a book you bought before, then the original invoice would increase the "Books" expense account, yet the expense account isn't decreased when the credit note is processed. So you end up with an incorrect balance. And it gets even more complicated if the credit note has multiple entries (with or without taxes).
What follows is an analysis of what is required to fully support credit notes in GnuCash. This includes an interface to enter credit notes, how to handle credit note payments or invoice/credit note interactions, what impact the changes in the engine will have on older GnuCash releases and so on.