What's the difference between 'Contra invoice' and duplicating and reversing an invoice?

There is often some confusion around what contra’ing an invoice means versus duplicating and reversing an invoice and I wanted to dedicate today’s tip to demystifying these two simple processes for everyone.

When you contra an invoice, you’re applying a credit note in the name of the same payer to an outstanding invoice in order to clear the remaining balance. This is typically done when you have an invoice with an outstanding balance that you want to clear. Sometimes in the payment section of an invoice you’ll see the (Contra) payment type, which can mean either yourself or a collegue have applied the credit note to the invoice, or a student has elected to use their credit note to make a payment on a new or existing invoice.

Duplicating and reversing an invoice simply creates a copy of the invoice or credit note selected, and then inverts it, without taking into account any previous payments. E.G. if you duplicate and reverse an invoice worth $100 and has an owing amount of $50, a credit note will be created worth -$100 and will have an owing amount of -$100. What you do with it at this point is up to you but it’s always recommended you contra the credit note against the original invoice in order to keep everything balanced. In this case it would leave you with -$50 available on the credit note (as $50 had already been paid on the original invoice) to either refund the student with or apply to a new enrolment.

Sometimes it can be a little confusing to know which to use when a mistake has been made in the checkout or payment process. Our rule of thumb is that very rarely can you fix a problem by creating more invoices; the best option is usually just to cancel the enrolment and, depending on the situation, either apply the credit note to a new enrolment/invoice or apply a payment out to the credit note to refund the student and start the enrolment process again.