Renaming Disbursements tab

@lubos, you wrote some while back that you wanted to delay discussion of terminology for the Disbursements function. Later, you shared that you were contemplating another tab, something like Billable Costs, for accrued expenses where money did not change hands, and possibly combining Billable Time, Disbursements, and Billable Costs into a single tab. Before things go too far, I’d like to open a discussion topic addressing both the naming issue and the need for the third tab.

We have recently heard from several users on this forum who struggle with Disbursements because they are trying to use the capability for things it was not meant to handle. I believe the current terminology is part of that problem. The term “disbursements” is so generic within the accounting world, I believe it is very easy for users to misconstrue its purpose. A more descriptive title would help, and I cannot think of anything better than Billable Expenses.

Likewise, Billable Time seems quite understandable for the present features of that tab. Both Billable Time and Billable Expenses would have the shared characteristic of being used to temporarily record things that will shortly be billed to a customer. Often, they might be used for interim invoices before a project is complete. They are both different in nature from a contract price that would be billed in accordance with some agreement. In that sense, they both capture things that should be recorded “now” rather than “later.”

You have correctly foreseen the need to accommodate markups and write-offs. But names of these default accounts have also seemed confusing to some users. Perhaps that could be addressed, as well, in a general renaming.

As for the third module for accrued or inferred expenses, I no longer see a need for it. Expense claims seems an easy route for recording this type of expense. An employee need not treat per diem in any different way from a hard money outlay. The expense is just as real, despite the fact that no company money changed hands. So in settling a travel claim, for example, there will be items for which money was spent (Spend Money) and items for which the expense is only claimed (Expense Claims). Both will allow for allocation to whatever the Disbursements recoverable account is ultimately called, if that is where an item should go. A third tab seems unnecessary.

As to combining the tabs, I would not. Surely there are companies that would want to record billable time but never have billable expenses. And there are those who do work only on fixed price contracts, but with provisions for expense pass-through. It is totally in keeping with the philosophy of Manager that they be able to use only the modules they need. That is just like companies can now enable Suppliers without needing Customers and vice versa.

I would very much like to hear others’ thoughts about this. Meanwhile, my suggestions for Tab and subsidiary account names are as follows:

Billable Time

  • Billable time (formerly Work in progress-this distinguishes the account from inventory work in progress)
  • Income from billed time (formerly Fees from work in progress)
  • Billable time movement (formerly Work in progress - movement)

Billable Expenses

  • Billable expenses (formerly Disbursements recoverable)
  • Income from billed expenses (formerly Disbursements income)
  • Uncollectable expenses (formerly Unrecoverable disbursements) [Note: individual users would have to decide whether to leave such written-off expenses here or transfer them to some more specific account by journal entry.]

Note how the terminology makes it fairly obvious which tab the subsidiary accounts belong to. And so far as possible, the naming is parallel for similar purposes. Ideas anyone (especially @alasdair)?

I concur with Tut. Regardless of current name, I consider it the ‘billable expenses’ module and agree that name would be clearer.

On billable time, I also agree that WIP is too easily confused with inventory wip and would support that being renamed billable time. Likewise the associated P&L accounts.

I too like the separate tabs, but do please keep the current ability to bill together, it’s useful!

Thanks again to lobos for what is great functionality whatever we call it!

I didn’t mention the universal billing aspect of things, because that has already been implemented. I, too, consider that essential. I would also mention (once again) how useful it would be to be able to add billable time or billable expense line items to an invoice initiated from the Sales Invoices tab and to edit (add) such line items on an existing invoice in case they were forgotten when the invoice was first created. I just didn’t want to clutter this topic.

I agree with you, that naming billable expenses is much more convenient.

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Thanks for the feedback. I agree with most points and there will be something done about this early next month.

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After working a while with my accounts renamed as suggested in my original post that began this topic, I have refined my thinking somewhat. As I discovered more about how the default accounts in Billable Time and Disbursements tabs work, especially how account names are included in various ledger listings, I think I have better names. I’ve edited my original post to include them. In summary my recommended titles are now:

  • Billable time/expenses (both asset accounts taking names directly from tab names)
  • Income from billed time/expenses (revised to express derivation from past action)
  • Billable time movement (no change)
  • Uncollectable expenses (emphasizing that expenses were billed and written off because of customer inaction, whereas “unrecoverable expenses” implied some characteristic of the expenses made them unrecoverable)

Naming is still parallel as far as possible, but hopefully more obvious.

I don’t actually agree that the name disbursements is the issue. As an English speaking person, to me the definition of disbursements would be something like billable expenses. The issue is not really the name in my opinion, but more understanding how and when to use Disbursements in Accounting as most people are not familiar with Disbursements in Accounting.

I now understand that Disbursements can be used to record any expenditure made on behalf of a client, although there are VAT considerations to take into account, but most people like myself would consider Disbursements to be random small expenses that the company has accrued on behalf of the client such as having to go out to a hardware store to buy some masking tape tape to complete a job on site.

Understanding how disbursements works in comparison to cost of sales is the issue here, not really the name in my opinion. Hell I am still trying to understand how the two differ to establish what I want for my company.

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Looks like you got your wish Tut. I had to rub my eyes this morning when I saw new ‘Billable expenses’ accounts, and no ‘Disbursements’ to be found. Looks like they quietly slipped this in to a recent update.

Now I have to consider whether I rename my own custom ‘billable expense income’ account. I used that for expenses I was passing on to clients, but where there wasn’t a tidy one-to-one relationship—e.g. I might pay for ‘credits’ on a stock images site, and then later use some of those credits to pay for an image that I would then bill the client for. The ‘expense’ part of the name reminded me that the original purchase was under ‘Expenses’, rather than ‘Assets’. ‘Disbursements income’ worked better for me as a name than ‘Billable expenses - markup’ for this reason, and also because it is instantly recognisable as an Income account, if you see it pop up somewhere. With ‘Billable expenses - markup’, I don’t think it’s immediately clear what type of account this is—expense, income or asset.

Ah well, you know what they say… ‘You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’

You are right, @Kal. I had renamed my accounts as per my suggestions in the earlier postings of this thread. They worked well for me. With the recent renaming, I had to decide whether to move to the new default names or keep my own. Ultimately, I split the difference.

For those accounts I don’t actually use, like Billable Expenses - markup or Billable time - movement, I decided to go with the new names. Based on how I do business, they end up as zero amounts by the end of the financial period. So they never affect reports. And I figured it would be easier to interpret forum topics that mention them. But I kept my own name for Billable time - invoiced. That’s one of Manager’s nice features: the ability to overwrite names, even for hard-coded accounts.

Right, I was forgetting that you could rename Manager’s built-in accounts (even though I previously changed ‘Capital Accounts’ to ‘Owner’s equity’)! Thanks for the reminder.

Lots of nice features in Manager, although I do feel some features could be less hidden, and it would be great if the Guides were a little more fleshed out. I tend to find more useful and complete information here on the forums than in the guides. Overall though, no regrets after switching over from MYOB!