5 3 Understand the methods used to account for uncollectible receivables bad debts,  estimate bad debt expense and manage the provision for doubtful debts Accounting Business and Society

how to calculate bad debt expense

When an actual debt becomes irrecoverable, the account is debited and then the accounts receivable will be reduced by a credit balance. Then all of the category estimates are added together to get one total estimated uncollectible balance for the period. The entry for bad debt would be as follows, if there was no carryover balance from the prior period. Although it is based on an estimate, this method allows a business to align bad debt to the reporting period in which the sale occurs.

After more than a decade in the administration side of the business world, she transitioned into Education in 2013. She has taught English and Business English to university students in Mexico, China and Brazil. Bad Debt Expense increases as does Allowance for Doubtful Accounts for $4608. The contra account may also be called the Provision for Bad Debts or the Allowance for Bad Debts in practice. 10.3 Define cost, revenue, profit and investment centres and explain why managers of each must be evaluated differently. 10.2 Evaluate how responsibility accounting is used to help manage a decentralised organisation.

Being Proactive with Your Late Invoices.

One approach is to apply an overall bad debt percentage to all credit sales. Another option is to apply an increasingly large percentage to later time buckets in which accounts receivable are reported in the accounts receivable aging report. Finally, one might base the bad debt expense on a risk analysis of each customer. No matter which calculation method is used, it must be updated in each successive month to incorporate any changes in the underlying receivable information. You must record bad debt expenses only if you follow the accrual accounting system.

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In this technique, the bad debt is directly considered as an expense, and the debt ratio is calculated by dividing the uncollectible amount by the total Accounts Receivables for that year. Bad debt refers to money owed to a business by customers or clients who are unable or unwilling to pay retail accounting back what they owe. It is considered bad debt when the business has little or no hope of recovering that money. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as bankruptcy, insolvency, or simply refusing to pay. We are balancing the matching principle and usefulness against perfection.

Accounts Receivable Aging

Keeping a close eye on the bad debt to sales ratio will help your business formulate better credit terms and reduce uncollectible AR. Additionally, keeping a low ratio will improve your business’s credit score and enable you to maintain a healthy cash flow. Estimates bad debt during a period, based on certain computational approaches. When the estimation is recorded at the end of a period, the following entry occurs. The accounts receivable aging method offers an advantage because it gives AR teams a more exact basis for estimating their uncollectibles. The final collection probability is however still an average and individual outstanding accounts could skew calculations.

The write-off method is the most straightforward way to calculate and report your bad debt. It means simply manually recording your bad debt as an expense, as they occur. Because uncollectible accounts threaten your cash flow, it is important to keep an eye on them. It is reported along with other selling, general, and administrative costs.


As stated in the previous section, accounts receivable are reported on the balance sheet as an asset. To remain consistent with the matching principle, businesses will write-off bad debt according to the allowance method. According to this method, the business will set aside a reserve for expected bad debts, or so-called doubtful accounts. This reserve, or allowance, is also referred to as a contra asset account because it “nets” or balances against the accounts receivable assets listed in the balance sheet.

  • Using this method allows the bad debts expense to be recorded closer to the actual transaction time and results in the company’s balance sheet reporting a realistic net amount of accounts receivable.
  • The allowance method enables companies to take anticipated losses into consideration on their financial statements in order to limit the overstatement of potential income.
  • If a significant amount of that money becomes bad debt, it can create cash flow problems and even lead to bankruptcy.
  • With optimized billing and invoices processes, bad debt happens very rarely.
  • Businesses have policies and procedures for evaluating customers’ creditworthiness and for setting the terms under which credit will be extended.

While the responsibility to maintain compliance stretches across the organization, F&A has a critical role in ensuring compliance with financial rules and regulations. Together with expanding roles, new expectations from stakeholders, and evolving regulatory requirements, these demands can place unsustainable strain on finance and accounting functions. F&A leadership can have a significant impact by creating sustainable, scalable processes that can support the business before, during, and long after the IPO. This company-wide effort crosses multiple functional areas and is reinforced by critical project management and a strong technology infrastructure. Adapt and innovate with a hyperconnected Accounting function and give everyone the insights and freedom to thrive by connecting your data, processes, and teams with intelligent automation solutions for accounting needs.

What Is Bad Debt Expense?

Do remember the matching principle if you are using the allowance method. Calculate what amount of your accounts receivable it represents in each category and add them to get your total bad debts. That’s your projected bad debt, whose amount you can now allocate to your allowance account. Once you have your result, you can project it onto your current credit sales. So if your bad debt rate was 2%, you can move 2% of your current credit sales into your bad debt allowance. Under this method, the company creates an “allowance for doubtful accounts,” also known as a “bad debt reserve,” “bad debt provision,” or some other variation.

how to calculate bad debt expense

Also note that it is a requirement that the estimation approach be disclosed in the notes of financial statements so stakeholders can make informed decisions. A major concern when developing a bad debt expense is when new products are being sold, since there is no historical information on which the expense estimate can be based. In this case, one option is to base the expense on the most similar product for which the organization has historical data. Another https://www.projectpractical.com/accounting-in-retail-inventory-management-primary-considerations/ option is to use the industry-standard bad debt expense, until better information becomes available. A third possibility is to begin with a conservative estimate, and then make frequent adjustments to the expense until sufficient historical information is available. If a business using the aging method has $50,000 of accounts receivable less than a month old, and $10,000 that are over one month old, it would calculate the allowance in aggregate.

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