Audit trail

7 min

What Is an Audit Trail and How Does It Work?

Audit trail or audit log is a record of events made by a computer system, an automated data logging. It puts in black and white how a transaction was completed and creates an auditable record that can be referenced later. With all this talk about fraud and embezzlement, there is one thing you can do to help deter it: implement an audit trail.

Alice Bled

Alice BLED • Libeo

Published on | Updated on

What is an audit trail and what is its purpose?

The term 'audit trail' comes from accounting, where it refers to a set of records that shows how transactions have changed over time. In financial analysis, audit trails keep tracks of any changes made to financial statements and other important documents. These records allow financial decision makers to track the history of the document, and to help auditors assess the validity of your financial statements:

  • If you’re auditing the books of another company, you may need to see the audit trail for their financial statements.
  • If you’re an accountant preparing financial statements for your own business or clients, you should maintain an audit trail so that you can support your statements with evidence when necessary.

The main purpose of audit trails is to provide proof that transactions were recorded accurately and that no unauthorized changes were made.

What types of organizations use audit trails?

Nowadays, nearly all industries rely on audit trails to meet compliance standards, improve security, and maintain operational control over their business processes. From CRM softwares like Salesforce to Cloud computing platforms like AWS, most tools provide their users with an audit trail to track user activity and API usage.

In process and research fields, whether it be in financial analysis or clinical research, audit trails are used to create a step-by-step record of how qualitative studies are conducted.

What is the difference between audit log and audit trail?

  • An audit trail is a recording of all user actions. Its purpose is to prevent/detect malicious use.
  • A log is a recording of what happens on a system. One of its main purposes is to analyse system malfunctioning, but it can also be used to investigate malicious use and other things.

Audit trail: example

For example, if you have an invoice with a list price of £1000 and you send it through multiple stages (e.g., approval and payment), each stage may create an audit trail entry in your accounting system. This will show how much money was added at each stage. If there are no errors or fraud involved, then these entries should match up perfectly at the end of the process (i.e., when the transaction is complete):

If someone tries to change an invoice after it's been approved but before it's paid for (e.g., they add a few extra items), then there will be discrepancies between their records and yours once you check them against each other manually or automatically by running reports on both systems at once.

What should an audit trail include?

Reliable audit trails may include informations about the transaction, such as the date and time it occurred, as well as information about why it was processed. Audit trail requirements vary depending on the type of business and industry, but typically include:

  • Transaction data : Information about each transaction that was processed by the system. This might include fields such as date, amount and type of transaction (purchase order, refund, etc.). It might also include information about who initiated or authorized the transaction.
  • Event data: Information about each event that triggered processing of a particular transaction. This might include fields such as time stamp and user ID for each event that caused a change in status (e.g., when an invoice was approved).

In accounting, an audit trail consists of two parts:

  1. The chronological order of all changes made to account balances or transactions;
  2. The identification of who made each change and when it occurred.
invoice processing


Here's your step-by-step guide to invoice processing automation

Invoice processing is a critical part of any business, but it can also be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. That's why it's important to automate invoice processing as much as possible as part of a more global electronic invoicing process.

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The Importance of an Audit Trail for Accountants and Bookkeppers

CPA firms use audit trail in accounting software for internal control purposes, as well as for regulatory compliance and legal purposes.

For financial organizations, which are subject to regulatory audit and outside reviews, financial sector regulations are enough reason to implement sound and secure audit trails to maintaining a successful business. In addition, having audit logs provides evidence of a mature organization that demonstrates a commitment to compliance and control.

The Importance of Audit Trails to streamline audit process

Audit trails help accountants and bookkeepers ensuring accuracy and compliance with accounting standards such as GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) or IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards).

In order to provide value added services in invoice processing, accounting firms offer audit trails. This allows auditors to trace back through all transactions in order to verify that no errors were made during processing. Through this function, auditors can ensure that each entry was made correctly and accurately reflects its source document.

In the case of invoice processing, a company may want to know who approved the purchase order and when it was approved. This information can be stored in a database so that when the invoice comes in, accounting teams can check the database to trace back who approved the purchase order and when they approved it. If someone were to dispute the validity of this transaction, accounting teams could rely on the database entry to prove that there has been an approval.

How to Create a Reliable Audit Trail

The exact nature of an audit trail will vary from one organization to the next. Some companies may back up every transaction to disk, while others may create a hash value for each transaction log entry. Regardless of the method employed, however, the purpose of an audit trail is always the same: maintain full visibility into all changes made to information stored within your system.

It provides financial and compliance teams peace of mind that no unauthorized changes have been made and that only authorized personnel have access to data within the accounting software program. There are several ways you can implement an audit trail in your accounting operations:

  • Create an automated email reminder. You can set up automated email reminders so that every time someone pays or receives money, they'll receive an automatic notification from their bank account saying that the money has been received or sent out. This will help ensure that all payments are recorded properly and nobody misses anything important during busy seasons or long days at work!
  • Use software with built-in audit trails. Most accounting software has built-in auditing capabilities, which means you can create an audit trail right inside the application itself. If you use QuickBooks Online, Oracle or Xero for example, you can set up a receipt rule to automatically generate an audit trail for every transaction you record. This will show all the details surrounding each transaction so that you can see exactly what happened when it happened.

audit trail software: how Libeo helps accountants build strong, reliable audit trails

Libeo is a fully integrated and automated business-to-business payments platform. Its payment tracking system works as an audit trail software for accountants and bookeeppers.

The platform allows for end-to-end management of the purchasing cycle:

  • One single platform to manage and pay all your supplier invoices
  • Scans and sorts all of your invoices
  • Reduces manual processing errors and secures payments to prevent fraud
  • Digitization of your approval workflows
  • Simple and secure payments without chasing bank account details or logging into your online banking
  • Integration with several accounting tools

From invoice collection...

Perform bulk imports of your accounts payable invoices from your computer or smartphone. Then the OCR technology automatically extract the data and convert it to electronic format. Your invoices are collected and centralised to avoid losses and duplications:

This function gives you an overview of upcoming and pending payments:

... To control and approbation

Every invoice or credit note imported into Libeo is subject to a control procedure to verify its identity, content and detect duplicate documents:

Follow the validation status of your invoices step by step in the Invoice news feed tab:

... To payment automation!

From your accounting preferences, configure your automation rules according to amounts, suppliers, accounting accounts, etc. This way you can automate recurring payments without altering the security of your accounts payable:

From invoice reception to its final archiving Libeo provides accountants and their clients with an advanced, automated audit trail software, giving them optimal transparency on the entire supplier invoice management process.

The solution provides its users with a reliable reinforced audit trail through to its integration with accounting software such as Xero and QuickBooks. For instance, if you're already using Xero for accounting, you can complete your audit trail with Libeo and cover the end-to-end supplier cycle.




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