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# Requirements for the Reimbursement and Outgoing Payment Request System

## Overview

One short-term goal of the Non-Profit Accounting Project is to create a
system that allows (a) members of an organization, and external parties, to
submit requests for reimbursement or request for payment like invoices,
and (b) the organization's bookkeepers, accountants, and managerial approvers
to review those requests, add them to the organization's books, and prepare
payment.  The primary motivation for this project is to save time both groups
spend on handling reimbursement requests and outgoing payments, and reduce
turnaround time for these requests, and to help members file complete
requests that are easy for bookkeepers to review and accept.

Members of the organization could be employees, members of projects
represented by the organization, or others doing work to advance the
organization's mission—anyone who the organization might want to reimburse or

The system should not make assumptions about specific reimbursement policies
or invoicing requirements.  Instead, it should be possible for a bookkeeper
or administrator to define follow-up questions and what responses are and are
not eligible for reimbursement or payment.  Early versions may require
sysadmin-level technical expertise to do this, but ultimately it should be
doable by a bookkeeper with appropriate privileges.

## Requirements for first release

### Defining the request form

Requests for payment have four states: Draft, Submitted,
Accepted, and Rejected.

Administrators can define questions to ask the requestor about the entire
request, and about each expense in the request.  The system can display
forms, validate answers, and record answers for questions with the following
types of answers:

* Text
* Selection (from a list of values)
* Number
* Currency (We may not need strict validation, but the system must at least
  understand that different currencies exist, and be able to validate that a
  currency is specified when needed.  Using a plain Number for currency is
  not sufficient.)
* File upload

Other types like boolean and date would be nice, but I think they could be
expressed with the types above.

It is expected that one question about expenses will be the type of expense
(e.g., airfare, accommodations, meals, office supplies).  The administrator
must be able to define follow-up questions that are asked based on the
expense type, to request additional information as required by policy.  For
example, Conservancy requires airfare search results to be attached to
airfare reimbursement requests.  Requestors should be prompted for this
documentation when submitting reimbursements for flights, and not for other

### Requestor workflow

Requestors can log in and see the status of all their requests.  They can also
create a new request, which starts in the Draft

When they view a report, it shows the questions and answers about the entire
report, and a list of associated expenses.  Viewing a specific expense
similarly shows all the questions and answers about it.

When a report is Draft state, the requestor can edit any answer in the
report or an associated expense.  They can also add an expense, which begins
by asking them questions common to all expenses, and then
follow-up questions as necessary based on those answers.

When an Draft report has at least one expense associated with it, and
all questions have been answered, the requestor may submit the request for
approval, along with optional notes about the request.
Once the request is submitted, it moves to the Submitted state.
Bookkeepers receive an e-mail notification that the request is ready for
review, including the notes written by the requestor.

### Bookkeeper workflow

Bookkeepers can log into the system and see all requests.

When bookkeepers review a Submitted report, they can change the report's
state, and include a note explaining why the report was moved to that state
(for example, the bookkeeper moved the request back to Draft because a
specific receipt was insufficient documentation).  When they do this, the
system sends email to the requestor letting them know about the change,
including the rationale provided by the bookkeeper.

The bookkeeper can export any request to the books.  The first release of the
software will simply provide an archive that includes all of the request's
supporting documentation, plus a `.ledger` file with entries for each
expense.  However, note that when building this feature in the code and UI,
it should be relatively generic.  Exporting should remain abstract enough
that integration with other accounting systems remains simple and
straightforward.  Note that even the mechanics could be different; for
example, an SQLedger exporter may add entries to the system directly, rather
than providing the bookkeeper with a file download.

## Requirements potentially for first release

These are features that we would like the system to have, and it may make
sense to make them requirements of the first release depending on how it's

* CiviCRM integration: Many NPOs are already using CiviCRM.  CiviCRM
  integration would provide a familiar interface to users, and simplify
  system administration for the organization.  It may be possible to build
  the system as a CiviCRM extension.  If so, we would get this feature for
* Usable without JavaScript: For consistent mission advocacy, it's important
  that some organizations not require requestors to use JavaScript.  For
  example, Tor browsers typically have JavaScript disabled because it can
  undermine Tor's anonymity guarantees; organiziations supporting Tor must
  support these users.
  It should be possible to submit payment
  requests without JavaScript.  The interface can be enhanced when JavaScript
  is available.
  Whether or not we do this in the first release probably depends on what
  framework we decide to build on.  If the framework itself requires
  JavaScript out of the box, it may make sense to have the first release go
  with the flow, then work to add JavaScript-free functionality in a later
  In any case, Javascript used will respect software freedom of users and, *if
  possible*, will adhere to LibreJS protocols.

## Requirements for later releases

These are features that we would ultimately like the system to have.  We
would also like to release a first version as early as possible, to start
getting feedback from users and generating more development interest.  It's
good to keep these in mind when architecting—in particular, we may choose an
existing system to use, or framework to build on, based on its ability to
support these features.  However, they needn't be a focus of development
effort for the first release.

* Administrator-defined policy validations

  Some validations we would like to have:

  * A value from a selection is in a specific subset of values

  * A date is within N days before and/or after today or a date in another answer

  * A currency amount is over or under a limit, with automatic conversion as needed

  * The limit on a currency amount is defined by an outside source - The
    main case for this is per diem, where many organizations use rates that
    are determined by another party like the US GSA and updated periodically.

  These may need to be compounded.  For example, an administrator may want
  to define a policy, "If an employee did not use a preferred airline, and
  did not travel internationally, it does not meet policy."

* Flag non-reimburseable expenses based on policy validations

  When the requestor answers questions that are outside the policy
  validations, the system should flag the answer and explain how it falls
  outside policy.  The requestor should still be able to submit the request,
  but they should be prompted to explain why the request should be fulfilled
  despite policy problems.

* Ask additional questions based on policy validations

  For example, "If the expense type is office supplies, and the cost is over
  $50, prompt for a receipt."

* Allow optional questions

  Along with this, policy validations probably need to
  be extended to address the case of "other question isn't answered"

* Additional exporters

  * Export to SQLedger

  * [Certainly many more, feel free to add them here]

* Richer lifecycle management

  * Support requests for pre-approval, probably with two states
    "Pre-Approval Draft" and "Pre-Approval Submitted."  In the
    Pre-Approval state, the requestor is submitting not receipts or
    invoices, but documents regarding potential expenses that have not yet
    been incurred, but for which organization policies require preapproval
    by organizational management ahead of time.  The appropriate management
    representatives are duly notified by the system of pending Pre-Approval
    requests, and their approval moves the request into the Draft
    state.  Their rejection moves the request to the Rejected sate.

  * Support more review: a leader (such as a manager or program
    director) may need to review and approve a request along with, or
    instead of, the bookkeeper

    * Support automatically determining the appropriate leader for a
      payment request based on information in the request, like a
      "What project is this for?" selection

  * A new state after Approved, Filled, which means that the
    organization has arranged for payment to go out.  The requestor
    should receive a notification when their request moves to the
    Filled state.

  * A new state after Filled, Received, which means the requestor
    received payment.  Bookkeepers should receive a notification when
    the request moves to this state.

* Show currency amounts in the requestor's reimbursement currency

  For example, the requestor can submit a reimbursement with expenses in
  USD, EUR, and CHR, but wants payment in INR.  Unclear what
  interface for this would look like, but real-time data about past currency
  rates might be available via an API somewhere, and we can use that to have
  the requestor give us "preferred currency for payment" so all changes
  happen in real time in the interface (even allowing the requestor to be
  able to decide *while filling out the report*: "ugh, these exchange rates
  to INR are horrible; I'll have them pay my USD account instead").
## Desired features

These are features that we would also, ultimately, like the system to
have.  But they're not as critical as the features in the previous
section, and they don't need to hold as much sway over the choice of a
base system or framework.

* Data import

  * Apps like [Tricky Tripper]( let users
    track expenses for a trip as they go.  The system could import this data
    to prepopulate answers to questions about the request and expenses in
    it.  Probably there would be an import API that can map different import
    formats to a common format, and then administrators can define how
    questions in their system can be answered based on imported data.

* Provide iCalendar feeds for request-related tasks

  We could implement any combination of the following:

  * Each request has its own iCalendar feed

  * Each user has their own iCalendar feed, which includes tasks for
    all the requests they're involved in

  * Each user has their own iCalendar feed, with deadlines aggregated
    within it (e.g., "3 requests outstanding more than 60 days")