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How to Record an Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

An allowance for doubtful accounts is a contra asset account used by businesses to estimate the total amount of goods and services sold that they do not expect to receive payment for. Located on your balance sheet, the allowance for doubtful accounts is used to offset your accounts receivable account balance. The company would then record a journal entry at the end of the accounting period that includes a debit to the bad debt expense account for $3,000 and a credit to the allowance for doubtful accounts for $3,000. The allowance for doubtful accounts is a general ledger account that is used to estimate the amount of accounts receivable that will not be collected. A company uses this account to record how many accounts receivable it thinks will be lost.

The ending balance in the contra asset account Accumulated Depreciation — Equipment at the end of the accounting year will carry forward to the next accounting year. The ending balance in Depreciation Expense — Equipment will be closed at the end of the current accounting 100 printable invoice templates period and this account will begin the next accounting year with a balance of $0. By monitoring customer payment behavior, we can provide insights into customer delinquency trends to help you determine which customers are at greater risk of defaulting on their payments.

  • Bad Debts Expense is an income statement account while the latter is a balance sheet account.
  • If a company does not estimate the number of uncollectible accounts, it will overstate its assets, revenue, and net income.
  • When the account defaults for nonpayment on December 1, the company would record the following journal entry to recognize bad debt.
  • Bad debts expense refers to the portion of credit sales that the company estimates as non-collectible.
  • It can also be referred to as Allowance for Uncollectible Expense, Allowance for Bad Debts, Provision for Bad Debts or Bad Debt Reserve.

You may notice that all three methods use the same accounts for the adjusting entry; only the method changes the financial outcome. Also note that it is a requirement that the estimation method be disclosed in the notes of financial statements so stakeholders can make informed decisions. At the end of an accounting period, the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts reduces the Accounts Receivable to produce Net Accounts Receivable. Note that allowance for doubtful accounts reduces the overall accounts receivable account, not a specific accounts receivable assigned to a customer. Because it is an estimation, it means the exact account that is (or will become) uncollectible is not yet known.

An adjusting entry dated December 31 is prepared in order to get this information onto the December financial statements. In accounting, we can determine the allowance for doubtful accounts by using the percentage of sales method or percentage of receivables method. While the percentage of sales method seems to be simpler, the percentage of receivables method can provide more detailed information if we use the accounts receivable aging report for this purpose. The main difference between the bad debt expense account and the allowance for doubtful accounts is that the bad debt expense account represents the estimated losses for a specific period. In contrast, the allowance for doubtful accounts represents the estimated losses over a longer period. Allowance for doubtful accounts and bad debts expenses impact the company’s balance sheet and profit and loss statement.

Learn All About Allowance for Doubtful Accounts (Aka Bad Debt Reserve)

This entry assumes a zero balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts from the prior period. For example, when companies account for bad debt expenses in their financial statements, they will use an accrual-based method; however, they are required to use the direct write-off method on their income tax returns. This variance in treatment addresses taxpayers’ potential to manipulate when a bad debt is recognized.

Publicly traded companies are required to follow GAAP rules, so some small businesses follow GAAP if they plan on growing and potentially going public someday. Evidence suggests that some companies
have great difficulty in estimating collectibility. Accountants potentially benefit by using additional tools that shed light on the accuracy of past estimates.

At Allianz Trade, we can help by providing you with trade credit insurance services and tools needed to reduce the uncertainty of buyer default and greatly reduce the impact of bad debt. It can also help you to estimate your allowance for doubtful accounts more accurately. It is important to understand that the allowance doesn’t protect against slow payments or lessen the impact of bad debt losses.

Balance Sheet Method for Calculating Bad Debt Expenses

Allowance for Bad Debts (also often called Allowance for Doubtful Accounts) represents the estimated portion of the Accounts Receivable that the company will not be able to collect. The adjustment process involves analyzing the current accounts, assessing their collectibility, and updating the allowance accordingly. GAAP allows for this provision to mitigate the risk of volatility in share price movements caused by sudden changes on the balance sheet, which is the A/R balance in this context. Note that if a company believes it may recover a portion of a balance, it can write off a portion of the account. For example, say as of December 31, 2022, ABC Supply Co. owes you $500 for goods purchased on credit.

Percentage of Credit Sales

The allowance for doubtful accounts (or the “bad debt” reserve) appears on the balance sheet to anticipate credit sales where the customer cannot fulfill their payment obligations. The accounts receivable aging method is a report that lists unpaid customer invoices by date ranges and applies a rate of default to each date range. At the time revenue is recorded, a company does not yet know which accounts will prove to be uncollectible. We don’t want to record any reduction in the Accounts Receivable account so we use a related contra account called Allowance for Doubtful Accounts or Allowance for Uncollectible Accounts to track the estimate.

3 Bad Debt Expense and the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

This method works best for companies with a small number of customers who’ve been doing business with you for a while. For businesses with a large number of constantly changing clients, using the customer risk classification would be difficult because you wouldn’t have historical data on every client. The allowance for doubtful accounts helps you see the true value of your assets. It estimates the amount of money you won’t be able to collect from customers any time soon, so you can figure out how much you’ll actually get in the bank. On
the other hand, if prior misstatements of the allowance were
material to the financial statements as a whole and were
intentional, a restatement of prior periods is required.

By Industry

This type of account is a contra asset that reduces the amount of the gross accounts receivable account. Contra assets are still recorded along with other assets, though their natural balance is opposite of assets. While assets have natural debit balances and increase with a debit, contra assets have natural credit balance and increase with a credit. If a company has a history of recording or tracking bad debt, it can use the historical percentage of bad debt if it feels that historical measurement relates to its current debt.

The doubtful accounts will be reflected on the company’s next balance sheet, as a separate line. Companies that issue financial statements prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) must use the allowance method. It is
crucial for accounting professionals to use all available tools to
understand the effectiveness of past estimates and maintain the
confidence of financial statement users in the stated net
receivables. The techniques demonstrated in this article will help
auditors comply with SAS no. 57 and assess clients’ current
allowances by providing valuable information about the accuracy of
past estimates.

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