Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts Expense

Introduction to Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts Expense
Payment terms
Recording Sales of Goods on Credit
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Introduction to Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts Expense

Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts ExpenseAccounts receivable represents money owed by entities to the firm on the sale of products or services on credit. In most business entities, accounts receivable is typically executed by generating an invoice and either mailing or electronically delivering it to the customer, who, in turn, must pay it within an established timeframe, called credit terms or payment terms.

The accounts receivable departments use the sales ledger, this is because a sales ledger normally records
- The sales a business has made.
- The amount of money received for goods or services.
- The amount of money owed at the end of each month varies (debtors).

The accounts receivable team is in charge of receiving funds on behalf of a company and applying it towards their current pending balances.
Collections and cashiering teams are part of the accounts receivable department. While the collection's department seeks the debtor, the cashiering team applies the monies received.

Accounts receivable also known as Debtors, is money owed to a business by its clients (customers) and shown on its balance sheet as an asset. It is one of a series of accounting transactions dealing with the billing of a customer for goods and services that the customer has ordered.

On a company's balance sheet , accounts receivable is the money owed to that company by entities outside of the company. The receivables owed by the company's customers are called trade receivables. Account receivables are classified as current assets assuming that they are due within one year. To record a journal entry for a sale on account, one must debit a receivable and credit a revenue account. When the customer pays off their accounts, one debits cash and credits the receivable in the journal entry. The ending balance on the trial balance sheet for accounts receivable is usually a debit.

Business organizations which have become too large to perform such tasks by hand (or small ones that could but prefer not to do them by hand) will generally use accounting software on a computer to perform this task.


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Payment terms

An example of a common payment term is Net 30, which means that payment is due at the end of 30 days from the date of invoice. The debtor is free to pay before the due date; businesses can offer a discount for early payment. Other common payment terms include Net 45, Net 60 and 30 days end of month.

Booking a receivable is accomplished by a simple accounting transaction; however, the process of maintaining and collecting payments on the accounts receivable subsidiary account balances can be a full-time proposition. Depending on the industry in practice, accounts receivable payments can be received up to 10 15 days after the due date has been reached. These types of payment practices are sometimes developed by industry standards, corporate policy, or because of the financial condition of the client.

Since not all customer debts will be collected, businesses typically estimate the amount of and then record an allowance for doubtful accounts which appears on the balance sheet as a contra account that offsets total accounts receivable. When accounts receivable are not paid, some companies turn them over to third party collection agencies or collection attorneys who will attempt to recover the debt via negotiating payment plans, settlement offers or pursuing other legal action.

Outstanding advances are part of accounts receivable if a company gets an order from its customers with payment terms agreed upon in advance. Since billing is done to claim the advances several times, this area of collectible is not reflected in accounts receivables.


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Bad Debts Expense as a Percent of Sales

Companies have two methods available to them for measuring the net value of accounts receivable, which is generally computed by subtracting the balance of an allowance account from the accounts receivable account.

The first method is the allowance method, which establishes a contra-asset account, allowance for doubtful accounts, or bad debt provision, that has the effect of reducing the balance for accounts receivable. The amount of the bad debt provision can be computed in two ways, either (1) by reviewing each individual debt and deciding whether it is doubtful (a specific provision); or (2) by providing for a fixed percentage (e.g. 2%) of total debtors (a general provision). The change in the bad debt provision from year to year is posted to the bad debt expense account in the income statement.

The second method is the direct write-off method. It is simpler than the allowance method in that it allows for one simple entry to reduce accounts receivable to its net realizable value. The entry would consist of debiting a bad debt expense account and crediting the respective accounts receivable in the sales ledger.

The two methods are not mutually exclusive, and some businesses will have a provision for doubtful debts, writing off specific debts that they know to be bad (for example, if the debtor has gone into liquidation.)

Under the accrual basis of accounting a sale on credit will:

  1. Increase sales or sales revenues, which are reported on the income statement, and
  2. Increase the amount due from customers, which is reported as accounts receivable—an asset reported on the balance sheet.

If a buyer does not pay the amount it owes, the seller will report:

  1. A credit loss or bad debts expense on its income statement, and
  2. A reduction of accounts receivable on its balance sheet.

With respect to financial statements, the seller should report its estimated credit losses as soon as possible using the allowance method. For income tax purposes, however, losses are reported at a later date through the use of the direct write-off method.


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