Purging Paid Invoices

Occasionally, Tax Collectors call us to ask when the best time is to purge paid items from the current database.  Although it may seem like a straight forward question, the answer depends on your preference.

First, let’s differentiate and define some terms and concepts. The Avitar Tax Collect program actually maintains two databases — your current database (the one to which the system connects by default) and your prior database (in which the system maintains history). To navigate seamlessly between the two databases, you can press the “Prior Years” and “Current Year” toggle button on the toolbar.

Invoices, receipts, and transactions (let’s just call them records) are created in your current database through the normal processes of being a Tax Collector — importing warrants, creating supplements, posting receipts, and processing abatements. The system will automatically archive these records in your prior database every time you close a fiscal period. During the archive process, any records that were previously archived are updated and any new records are added within the prior database. However, the archive process does not eliminate any records from your current year data. The archive process should not be confused with the purge process during which paid invoices from prior fiscal years are actually removed from the current year data.

In the past, the system didn’t separate the purge process from the archive process — both automatically happened every time you closed a fiscal period.  But this automatic purge was problematic because invoices that were paid shortly before the close of the fiscal period quickly disappeared from the current database. For example, in a municipality with a July 1 fiscal year, if a taxpayer paid the first issue property tax bill in June then the records associated with that first issue bill would be purged when the fiscal period was closed in July. When the second issue bill was subsequently generated, the first issue bill would be in the prior database and the second bill would be in the current database. If the taxpayer wanted information on both bills, you would have to toggle back and forth between the two databases, resulting in a lot of time spent just searching for invoices.

To solve this initial issue of toggling back and forth, we added an option years ago to the close fiscal period process in which the system asked you whether you wanted to purge your paid invoices from your current data. This change effectively separated the archive process from the purge process and allowed you to keep recent but paid invoices in the current database. Nonetheless, we still had many collectors that would elect to purge paid invoices at the time of close without fully comprehending the effects. So with the most recent update we eliminated the question altogether — the system will no longer purge paid invoices from your current data during the close fiscal period process. So now the responsibility to purge records from the current database is all on you.

Naturally, some collectors wonder, if having a detailed history in the current database prevents you from ever having to toggle to their prior data, why should they ever purge anything from the current data. The problem is that if you choose to never purge your paid invoices, not only will the tree view lists grow and become cumbersome to navigate, but the added data will cause your system to run slower when generating reports and creating deposits.

So, when and what should you purge? This is where it depends on your preference and what you purge will often times dictate when you purge. Some collectors will purge all paid invoices up to the prior fiscal year (e.g. in FY 2014 they purge up to 2013). If this is your preference, you probably want to wait until after you have imported your first issue property tax bills; that way you always have at least one invoice for each parcel in the current year data. Other collectors will purge all paid invoices up to the year for which they have executed their deeds (e.g. in FY 2014 they purge up to 2011). If this is your preference, the time of year at which you purge is less important.

No matter when and what you decide to purge, before you begin the process, you should create a backup of your current data. The backup is extremely important — if something happens to interrupt the process we will need to use the backup to restore your data. Also, make sure all other users are out of Tax Collect and you have printed a Collection YTD report. You can use this report to validate your balances did not change once the purge process is complete.

To begin the purge process, go to Utilities | Town Settings | Fiscal Year. Select Purge Duplicate Paid Invoices from Current Year Data. A message box displays verifying you have completed a backup, select Yes to continue with the purge. You will be asked if you want to use your prior year as the cutoff year for purging invoices. Select Yes if you want to purge all paid invoices up to your prior fiscal year, or select No to enter the year to which you wish to purge.  Once the purge is complete, run another Collection YTD report and verify the balances match the report you printed before the purge.

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