Negative billable time

I’ve had the need again to record “negative” billable time. I did 12.5 hours of work for a client, but the client will pay only for 10 hours. In the past (see Writing off billable time), I’ve take care of this at the invoice level by manually adding an additional line assigned to the Billable Time account, with a negative quantity. But I’m finding that that doesn’t always suit my needs because I have to remember to take care of it when I generate my monthly invoices

Instead, I’ve recently been recording a “negative” Billable Time entry. That’s always worked in the past, when my adjustments always happened to be whole hours (like -2 hours or -3 hours). But in today’s case, when I made an entry for -2.5 hours, I discovered a problem: If I enter -2 in the hours box and 30 in the minutes box, it gets interpreted not as -2.5 hours, but instead as (-2)+(0.5) hours = 1.5 hours. I can enter -2 in the hours box and -30 in the minutes box and it will calculate correctly as -2.5 hours, but then my invoice says “-2 hr -30 min” in the quantity column, which will confuse the client.

Can negative time be handled better, either by the minutes field observing the sign of the hours field (if there is one), or by having a “negative” option somewhere?

I’m assuming you probably have two goals:

  • Accurately record actual time worked
  • Adhere to overall limits on invoiced time agreed in advance with the customer

A better way to do this, rather than entering negative time, is in three steps:

  1. Record actual billable time.
  2. Create a sales invoice from the Customers tab for full amount.
  3. Immediately edit the sales invoice to apply a discount. Choose Exact amount and enter the value of the discounted hours.

This will completely clear the Billable time asset account, eliminate all uninvoiced time for that customer in the Customers tab, and show the limited amount in both Accounts receivable and Sales - billable time. The actual record of time worked will remain in the BillableTime tab.

I don’t think the developer is going to put effort into modifying the program to handle the impossibility of negative time. This approach also has the advantage of showing the customer how much they are getting for free.

Yes, your suggestion works. The hard part is remembering to do it when I generate the invoice – which for me is a batch process at the end of the month. I just had a conversation with a client (on the 10th of the month) where I agreed to write-off 2.5 hours. I wanted to enter that write-off immediately so I don’t forget, but it’s not possible. I’ve had to resort to a yellow-stickie to remind myself to enter the write-off manually on April 30th when I generate my next invoice. Not ideal.

There is another way of looking at the situation. If you’ve contractually agreed to limit the work to 10 hours, the additional 2.5 hours are not billable time to begin with and perhaps should not be entered as such, since they don’t represent an asset. So either limit your entries to 10 hours or immediately edit the billable time entry whenever you make such an agreement. Then there is nothing to remember at month’s end. If you want to show non-billed work on the eventual invoice, enter it manually and discount it 100%.