Create invoices from "Billable Expenses": Why only from "Customers" tab?

This is a thing I’ve wondered about for a while. I know that to create a sales invoice from a billable expense, I “should” go to the customers tab. But about I’d say 75% of the time, I will go to the Billable Expenses tab, see the expenses I want to create invoices for, and then am momentarily frustrated that it is impossible from the B.E. tab. It’s not a major problem; I remember the workflow, click on the customers tab and continue on my way. But is there some philosophical reason why this isn’t possible from this tab, or is it just an oversight?

This seems to be something that has tripped up other people too; see here and here and various other threads.

(In this thread, @Tut explains:

Billable Expenses work differently from everything else in Manager. They are the only transaction type you cannot initiate in the tab of the same name. This is related to the way billable expenses are passed through to customers without appearing on your profit and loss statement.

but it’s not clear to me how this relates to the decision to only allow invoice creation from the customer tab vs. the B.E. tab.)

There may be a great explanation for this in which case, super. My proposal would be that a little UI sugar here would go a long way. For example, let’s say there’s some great reason that one can’t create sales invoices from the BE tab; one possible way to head off this question (which seems to be recurring) would be to make the customer name in the BE tab a link to “The customer tab, with the search field set to that customer’s name”. Links invite clicking, so this would likely guide the user to the correct workflow.


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@peterb, your quote is from a post almost three years old, relating to a version of the program that became completely obsolete almost two years ago, at v19.12.5. This is explained in a Note in the current version of the Guide: Record billable expenses | Manager. A major reason for the change was to add transparency in the invoicing and cost recovery of billable expenses. Nothing in the forum written about billable expenses before that change is relevant any longer.

Your other links are also not very relevant. The first simply asks how to do something. It does not complain about the process. The second link is to topic more than five years old, requesting a capability that was incorporated into the program years ago. So neither is evidence of confusion caused by the current scheme.

To address your original question, though, about why it is not possible to invoice directly from the Billable Expenses tab, there are several reasons:

  • The tab exists to consolidate billable expense transactions that might have originated in the Payments, Expense Claims, Purchase Invoices, Journal Entries, or Debit Notes tabs. Nowhere else can billable expenses from all these sources be searched, sorted, and viewed in one place.
  • Unlike other transaction tabs, Billable Expenses does not include a unique type of transaction. That is, there is not a form for entering a billable expense. Instead, billable expenses are entered in other tabs as one of the transaction types mentioned above. So the Billable Expenses tab is not a place to take further action that involves creation of new transactions. Rather, it provides a status summary and a place to take actions that do not involve other tabs (such as writing off a billable expense) or that modify linkages to transactions in other tabs (such as when adding a billable expense to an already-created sales invoice and needing to change the status of the billable expense). From that perspective, the tab might actually be considered superfluous. Since it is not a place from which to initiate new transactions, it makes little sense to make it into a back door to initiation of new transactions.
  • Billable Expenses is only one branch of a larger scheme that includes Billable Time. Both are components of uninvoiced entries connected to specific customers. But they are treated quite differently by program, because billable expenses are real expenses before invoicing, while billable time is only imputed income until invoicing. So considering Billable Expenses in isolation is insufficient. Starting out in Billable Expenses and being confronted during the invoicing process with Billable Time has the potential to be confusing. Starting with uninvoiced, billable entries and encountering both types for a single customer is less confusing.
  • Before invoicing, billable expenses are traceable to individual customers as subsidiary ledgers of the Billable expenses control account. While it could be possible to correctly pick and choose billable expenses for invoicing from the consolidated list, or to specify a customer first and then be limited to choosing only that customer’s expenses in the Billable Expenses tab, both options present greater possibilities for error and/or involve more complexity. And in the case of the second, you would not gain anything you do not already have by choosing the customer in the Customers tab. (See the discussion above about uninvoiced entries.)