Sometimes a small cosmetic change can cause big ripples, especially when it runs into a long-standing issue. The upgrade to 18.05 brought just such a situation in patron accounts. A change to how credits and debits are displayed in patron accounts ran into an existing issue with how Koha handles credits generally and caused some confusing and contradictory display of patron fine totals.
In the 18.05 version our partners are on, the Pay Fines tab in a patron's account shows an inaccurate Total Due if the patron's account has credits. The correct Total Due can be seen on the Accounts. The fines shown on Pay Fines should not be paid or written off as the patron does not actually owe the library any money.
Bug 18805 introduces a patch that fixes this issue and we'll be pushing it out to our partners soon. This bug has cleared QA with the community and pending some internal testing we'll have it pushed out to our partners early next week.
I'll loop back around to the issue I started this post with, but first I want to talk about the feature this patch introduces as it's a great addition to Koha!
Applying Credits to Fines
Credits have been problematic in Koha since they were introduced. While a credit could offset a fine, it couldn't actually pay the fine. That's about to change!
Our patron here owes $5 and has $5 in credit. Koha knows her account is balanced and won't stop her from checking out, but we can make the bookkeeping tidier by clicking the new Apply Credits button. This will take the patron's credit and apply it to as many fines as possible.
Once this has been done, our patron no longer shows any outstanding fines on the Pay Fines tab.
If we switch to the Account tab we can see her paid off fines and, by clicking the Details button, can see that the fines were paid off by the application of a credit. Similarly, clicking Details on the credit will show us all the fines it was applied to.
If you have patrons with credits you'd like to get cleaned up, let us know and we'll be happy to help! What I showed above is the process for reconciling credits for a single patron, but the new code also includes a tool we can run on the back end to reconcile credits for all of your patrons system-wide.
Having looked at this new feature, let's back up and look at some confusion it will help us clear up. First, let's look at how credits displayed in 17.11 and earlier versions of Koha.
On the Pay Fines tab, we see both the credit and the fines it's offsetting, along with a Total Due of zero. We can clearly see the patron doesn't owe us any money and should be free to check out, even if the specific accounting behavior is less than perfect.
As mentioned above, in 18.05 credits were hidden from the Pay Fines tab and, consequently, the page did some poor math. Here our patron appears to owe us $5.
But if we click over to the Accounts tab we see that those $5 in fines are actually offset by the $5 credit. This Total Due, $0, is the accurate total and we should not accept payment for these fines or write them off.
Once the patch from Bug 18805 is pushed live, these credits will be applied properly and this issue will be resolved. Additionally, the community is working on further development of this feature to allow credits to be reconciled automatically by a scheduled process. Altogether, these are great steps forward in how Koha handles credits!
If you're seeing confusion in the meantime, don't hesitate to reach out. We can help you with reports to identify impacted patrons and have code that can be added to your IntranetUserJS system preference to help direct staff toward the correct Total Due in a patron's record.
Read more by Andrew Fuerste-Henry