Purchase Order

Purchase Order (PO) Template

Utilize our Purchase Order Template to document essential information about your acquired goods.

A purchase order serves as an official document from a buyer to a seller, granting authorization for the acquisition of particular goods or services. It holds the significance of a legally binding agreement, guaranteeing the fulfillment of transaction terms while also offering a comprehensive record for financial management and auditing purposes.

Much like an online shopping cart, a purchase order benefits both parties by meticulously documenting transactions and specifying order details, payment conditions, and delivery arrangements.

Table of Contents

Understanding Purchase Orders: A Buyer-Seller Contract

A purchase order is a written document that records a business transaction between two parties – the Buyer and Seller. An order is issued by the Buyer when large purchases are made.

Once a Seller accepts the order, a legally binding contract is formed between the Buyer and Seller.

A purchase order is different from a purchase agreement.

As a reference, this document and the parties involved are known by several names:

  • Purchase Order
  • Buyer
  • Seller
  • “PO” abbreviation
  • Vendee
  • Vendor
  • Contract Purchase Agreement
  • Purchaser
  • Supplier
  • Customer

Purchase Order vs. Invoice: Clarifying the Distinction

A Purchase Order (PO) is a document initiated by the Buyer BEFORE making any payment, formally requesting the Seller to deliver specific goods or services. Conversely, an Invoice is generated by the Seller AFTER fulfilling an order, presenting a demand for payment regarding the goods supplied.

Additionally, an Invoice serves as a receipt to confirm payment from the Buyer for the ordered goods.

Advantages of Using Purchase Orders

Utilizing purchase orders offers several notable advantages, including:

  1. Audit Clarity: Purchase orders establish a comprehensive record of past transactions, simplifying auditing processes by providing insights into expenditure allocation.
  1. Expense Tracking: Purchase orders are typically numbered and can be organized chronologically, facilitating accurate expense tracking and financial management.
  1. Precise Invoicing: Purchase orders enhance the accuracy of invoicing, reducing errors and ensuring that billing aligns with the products or services ordered.
  1. Transparent Operations: They promote transparency in business operations, preventing information from being lost in the process and fostering clear communication between businesses and suppliers.
  1. Legal Safeguards: Properly executed purchase orders form legally binding contracts, safeguarding the interests of both the supplier and the purchasing business. They also aid in risk mitigation by minimizing procurement-related risks.

Essential Components of a Purchase Order

A purchase order should encompass various vital elements, ensuring a smooth and clear transaction process. These key components include:

  1. Contact Information: Include detailed contact information for both the supplier and the purchasing business, such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses, to facilitate communication and clarification.
  1. Purchase Order Number: Assign a unique purchase order number for tracking and reference purposes. Consistency in numbering between the business and the vendor can streamline order management.
  1. SKU Numbers: If applicable, list SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) numbers for each item ordered, especially for raw materials or products with multiple variations, to ensure accuracy in fulfillment and invoicing.
  1. Price and Quantity: Specify the price of each item individually, with a separate column for the quantity ordered. This facilitates straightforward calculations for each product category and minimizes errors.
  1. Item Descriptions: Include brief descriptions of the ordered items, particularly for products available in various sizes or configurations, to prevent confusion and ensure accurate order fulfillment.
  1. Order Total: Clearly state the order total, typically positioned at the bottom of the purchase order. Highlight any price adjustments, such as taxes, discounts, or promotions, and provide a breakdown of how these adjustments are calculated before arriving at the final order total.
  1. Due Date: Clearly indicate the payment terms and specify the due date for payment, which should be agreed upon in advance during negotiations.

Efficient Purchase Order Process

Efficiently managing the purchase order process is crucial for businesses to ensure smooth transactions and accurate record-keeping. Here are the essential steps in creating and using purchase orders:

Step 1 – Request Purchase Approval

  • Depending on the organization's size and structure, departments or managers may require approval from relevant departments like accounting or finance before making a purchase.
  • This step helps maintain control over budgets and expenditures.

Step 2 – Create and Approve the Purchase Order

  • Once approval is granted, generate a purchase order with a comprehensive list of the goods or services to be acquired.
  • Ensure the accuracy of the list before sending it to the vendor to confirm the order's details.
  • Utilize a purchase order template to streamline the process and include all necessary information.
  • Assign a unique purchase order number for tracking and referencing purposes.

Step 3 – Send Purchase Order to Vendor

  • Transmit the completed purchase order to the vendor, indicating your intent to procure their goods or services.

Step 4 – Vendor Acknowledges Receipt

  • Upon receiving the purchase order, the vendor should acknowledge its receipt, which confirms the binding nature of the purchase.
  • Alternatively, a bill of sale with additional purchase details can serve this purpose.

Step 5 – Vendor Delivers Goods or Services

  • The responsibility for delivering the specified goods or services now lies with the vendor.
  • Timely and accurate delivery is crucial to meet expectations.

Step 6 – Matching of Documents and Closure of Purchase Order

  • The final step involves reconciling the goods or services delivered with the purchase order and the invoice.
  • Ensure alignment to avoid overpayment.
  • Once verification is complete, proceed with payment.

Key Tips:

  • Leverage Modern Technology: Utilize a centralized computer system for efficient purchase order tracking.
  • Promptness Matters: Send purchase orders and invoices promptly to allow sufficient response time.
  • Use Templates: Employ purchase order templates to expedite the distribution of purchase orders.

When to Utilize a Purchase Order

Purchase orders (POs) serve as essential documents in business and commercial transactions, particularly for more complex and formal procurement processes. Here are scenarios in which using a purchase order is advisable:

  1. Bulk Purchases: When procuring a substantial quantity of products or diverse types of products for business purposes, POs provide a structured means to document the items being acquired.
  1. Inventory Management: Businesses that maintain large inventories benefit from POs to accurately record and track inventory levels, orders placed, and items received.
  1. Vendor Relationships: If your business frequently engages with multiple vendors, using POs helps streamline procurement and maintain clear records of transactions with various suppliers.
  1. Supplier Transactions: POs are especially useful when purchasing multiple items from a single supplier or another company, ensuring transparency and accountability in the procurement process.
  1. Audit and Bookkeeping: POs facilitate the matching of shipments with purchases, aiding auditing and bookkeeping functions. The accounts payable department can specify precise terms of goods received.

Common Situations for Using Purchase Orders

  • Maintaining a paper trail for review by CPAs or accountants.
  • Monitoring the timely delivery and payment of ordered goods.
  • Ensuring that the seller fulfills the terms of the purchase.
  • Effectively managing incoming and pending orders.
  • Establishing standardized procurement procedures for efficiency.
  • Regardless of the size of your business, using purchase orders helps keep track of ordered, shipped, and paid-for items.

Purchase orders are not exclusive to large government agencies like the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense. Even small businesses and solo entrepreneurs find them valuable for enhancing transparency, accountability, and order management in their operations.


What are the 4 types of PO?

  1. Standard Purchase Orders (PO): The most common and straightforward type, used for regular purchases.
  1. Planned Purchase Orders (PPO): Long-term orders committed to buying from a single source.
  1. Blanket Purchase Orders (BPO): Flexible agreements that establish guidelines for future orders.
  1. Contract Purchase Orders (CPO): Basic purchase orders focusing on negotiated terms and conditions, with more orders to follow.

What is the purpose of a PO?

A Purchase Order (PO) is a formal document issued by a Buyer to a Seller. Its main purposes are to outline requirements, establish pricing, and serve as legally binding proof of ordered goods or services.

What is the PO process?

The purchase order process is a system that allows businesses to track and manage their requested goods or services. It provides a structured way to monitor details like quantity, delivery instructions, cost, terms, and required dates.

Sample For Purchase Order

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