How to calculate and record the bad debt expense Article

Uncollectible accounts expense

Allowance for uncollectible accounts is a contra asset account on the balance sheet representing accounts receivable the company does not expect to collect. When customers buy products on credit and then don’t pay their bills, the selling company must write-off the unpaid bill as uncollectible. Allowance for uncollectible accounts is also referred to as allowance for doubtful accounts, and may be expensed as bad debt expense or uncollectible accounts expense. The method looks at the balance of accounts receivable at the end of the period and assumes that a certain amount will not be collected. Accounts receivable is reported on the balance sheet; thus, it is called the balance sheet method.

What are examples of expense accounts?

Examples of expense accounts are Costs of Sales, Cost of Goods Sold, Costs of services, Operating expense, Finance Expenses, Non-operating expenses, Prepaid expenses, Accrued expenses and many others.

Estimating your bad debts usually involves some form of the percentage of bad debt formula, which is just your past bad debts divided by your past credit sales. To illustrate, let’s continue to use Billie’s Watercraft Warehouse as the example.

Objective 2 – Explain how Accounts Receivable are Recognized in the Accounts

A company may use the direct write-off method or the allowance method. The percentage of credit sales approach focuses on the income statement and the matching principle. Sales revenues of $500,000 are immediately matched with $1,500 of bad debts expense. The balance in the account Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is ignored at the time of the weekly entries. However, at some later date, the balance in the allowance account must be reviewed and perhaps further adjusted, so that the balance sheet will report the correct net realizable value. If the seller is a new company, it might calculate its bad debts expense by using an industry average until it develops its own experience rate.

Uncollectible accounts expense

For more information, see our training modules,Understanding Financial StatementsandThe Balance Sheetor read our eBook,Understanding Financial Statements. Sales and the ultimate decision that specific accounts receivable will never be collected can happen months apart. During the interim, bad debts are estimated and recorded on the income statement as an expense and on the balance sheet through an allowance account, a contra asset. In that way, the receivable balance is shown at net realizable value while expenses are recognized in the same period as the sale to correspond with the matching principle. When financial statements are prepared, an estimation of the uncollectible amounts is made and an adjusting entry recorded.

Understanding of Uncollectible Accounts:

BWW estimates that 5% of its overall credit sales will result in bad debt. Delays recognition of bad debt until the specific customer accounts receivable is identified.

Generally classified and reported as separate items in the balance sheet. Nontrade receivables including interest receivable, loans to company officers, advances to employees, and income taxes refundable. Determine what entry, debit or credit, and amount you need to have in order to get the balance where it needs to be. Rebekiah has taught college accounting and has a master’s in both management and business. Accounts uncollectible Uncollectible accounts expense are loans, receivables, or other debts that have virtually no chance of being paid, due to a variety of reasons. Accounts receivable discounted refers to the selling of unpaid outstanding invoices for a cash amount that is less than the face value of those invoices. Peggy James is a CPA with over 9 years of experience in accounting and finance, including corporate, nonprofit, and personal finance environments.


It may be obvious intuitively, but, by definition, a cash sale cannot become a bad debt, assuming that the cash payment did not entail counterfeit currency. The income statement method is a simple method for calculating bad debt, but it may be more imprecise than other measures because it does not consider how long a debt has been outstanding and the role that plays in debt recovery. The adjusting entry to estimate the expected value of bad debts does not reduce accounts receivable directly. Accounts receivable is a control account that must have the same balance as the combined balance of every individual account in the accounts receivable subsidiary ledger. For tax purposes, companies must use the direct write‐off method, under which bad debts are recognized only after the company is certain the debt will not be paid. Before determining that an account balance is uncollectible, a company generally makes several attempts to collect the debt from the customer.



Posted: Mon, 15 Aug 2022 15:02:05 GMT [source]

The formula uses historical data from previous bad debts to calculate your percentage of bad debts based on your total credit sales in a given accounting period. Every business has its own process for classifying outstanding accounts as bad debts.

Examples of Uncollectible Accounts in a sentence

So how do we know which method to use when estimating the uncollectible amounts, the balance sheet or income statement since the question does not specify. But this isn’t always a reliable method for predicting future bad debts, especially if you haven’t been in business very long or if one big bad debt is distorting your percentage of bad debt. In that case, you simply record a bad debt expense transaction in your general ledger equal to the value of the account receivable . Estimated portion of receivables that is unlikely to be collected by a business from its customers and may become a bad debt at some point in the future.

Net receivables are the money owed to a company by its customers minus the money owed that will likely never be paid, often expressed as a percentage. Fancy Foot Store declares bankruptcy and it is uncertain if they will be able to pay the $1 million. Barry and Sons Boot Makers shows $5 million in accounts receivable but now also $1 million in allowance for doubtful accounts, which would be $4 million in net accounts receivable. Reasons for accounts uncollectible relate to bankruptcy or a refusal to pay by the debtor.

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts and Bad Debt Expenses

This schedule classifies the receivables on the basis of the length of time they have been outstanding. Under this direct approach for estimating the expense, the increase in the allowance is computed indirectly.

Uncollectible accounts expense

In general, the longer a customer prolongs their payment, the more likely they are to become a doubtful account. When your business decides to give up on an outstanding invoice, the bad debt will need to be recorded as an expense. Bad debt expenses are usually categorized as operational costs and are found on a company’s income statement.

Producing financial statements in compliance with GAAP is a requirement for public companies listed on a US Exchange. The matching principle requires that revenues be matched to their related expense within an accounting period. To approximate this as much as possible, a company must rely on the accrual-basis accounting method to periodically estimate certain revenues and expenses. Accrual-basis accounting is required for a company to be in compliance with GAAP. In the case of uncollectible accounts, there is often a big gap of time between a credit sale and the company realizing that the credit sale cannot be collected. If the company does not provide for uncollectible accounts using the allowance method during each accounting period, then the matching principle will be violated, and the books will be a less accurate reflection of reality. With this method, accounts receivable is organized into categories by length of time outstanding, and an uncollectible percentage is assigned to each category.

Sales resulting from the use of Visa and MasterCard are considered cash sales by the retailer. The credit card issuer, who is independent of the retailer, the retailer, and the customer. Liquidity is measured by how quickly certain assets can be converted into cash.

Recognizing the bad debt requires a journal entry that increases a bad debts expense account and decreases accounts receivable. Smith fails to pay a $225 balance, for example, the company records the write‐off by debiting bad debts expense and crediting accounts receivable from J. This means the total of all individual accounts found in the subsidiary ledger must equal the total balance in accounts receivable. The allowance method uses an estimate of uncollectible expense, also known as bad debts expense, and does not predict which individual accounts will be written off. For this reason, the adjustment to accounts receivable is made using the contra asset account allowance for doubtful accounts, which is sometimes referred to as the allowance for bad debts.

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