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Allowance for Doubtful Accounts: Methods of Accounting for

Photo: Allowance for Doubtful Accounts Photo: Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

What is a Doubtful Accounts Allowance?

A counter account called an allowance for doubtful accounts nets against the total receivables shown on the balance sheet to only show the amounts anticipated to be paid. The percentage of accounts receivable anticipated to be uncollectible is estimated by the allowance for doubtful accounts. However, customers’ real payment habits could be very different from the prediction.

Understanding Doubtful Accounts Allowance

The danger of not being paid is always inherent in a credit-based transaction, regardless of the corporate rules and procedures for credit collections. As a result, a business must recognize this risk by creating an allowance for doubtful accounts and offsetting bad debt expenditure. This ensures that expenses associated with the sale are recorded in the same accounting period that the matching accounting principle collects the income. Companies can more correctly assess the true worth of their account receivables using the allowance for dubious accounts.

An organization cannot be confident which specific receivables will be paid and which will default because the allowance for doubtful accounts is generated in the same accounting period as the initial sale. Therefore, the allowance must be set up in the same accounting period as the transaction by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Still, it may be based on an anticipated or projected amount. The allowance may be increased or decreased depending on the account balance throughout multiple accounting periods.

How to Calculate the Allowance for Uncertainty in Accounts

There are primarily two ways to calculate the monetary amount of receivables that aren’t expected to be collected.

Method of Sales as a Percentage

The whole dollar amount of sales for the period receives a flat percentage under the sales method. For instance, a business might anticipate that 3% of net sales won’t be collected based on prior performance. If the Company’s net sales for the entire period are $100,000, it sets aside $3,000 as an allowance for questionable accounts and records an additional $3,000 in bad debt charges.

A total of $2,400 is added to the allowance for doubtful accounts, and $2,400 is recognized in bad debt expense if the following accounting period’s net sales reach $80,000. After these two periods, the allowance for questionable accounts has a total amount of $5,400.

Method of Accounts Receivable Aging

The aging approach is the second technique for calculating the tolerance for dubious accounts. Age-based groups of all unpaid accounts receivable are created, and different percentages are applied to each group. The anticipated uncollectible sum is the total of all group results.

For instance, a business has $70,000 in accounts receivable with less than 30 days remaining and $30,000 with more than 30 days remaining. According to prior experience, 1% of accounts receivable that are less than 30 days old and 4% of those that are at least 30 days old will be impossible to collect.

As a result, the corporation will disclose a $1,900 allowance (($70,000 * 1%) + ($30,000 * 4%). Only $600 ($2,500 – $1,900) will be the adjusting entry amount if the expected allowance for the following accounting period is $2,500 due to outstanding accounts receivable.

Method of Risk Classification

Some businesses may use risk classifications to categorize various debt types or vendor categories. For instance, a start-up customer can be viewed as a high risk, but a long-standing, established customer might be viewed as a low risk. In this instance, the business frequently allots a proportion to each debt. Once all receivables in each category have been aggregated, each group’s percentage has been calculated, and an allowance equal to the sum of all goods has been recorded.

Utilizing Historical Percentage

A corporation may utilize the historical proportion of bad debt if it has a history of tracking or documenting it and believes this measurement is relevant to its current debt. For instance, a business may know the 2.4% bad debt average for the previous ten years. Since it is typically close to this amount, it can allocate this fixed proportion to its accounts receivable balance. Outliers or unique situations that might have adversely influenced the 2.4% assessment must be known to the Company.

Method of Pareto Analysis

According to a Pareto analysis, a risk-measuring strategy, most activity is frequently concentrated around a small number of accounts. According to a conservative estimate, 20% of vendors account for 80% of the accounts receivable balances in many different business areas. In business, this 80%/20% ratio is common.

The Pareto Analysis can balance accounts receivable estimations differently, even though it cannot be employed independently. For instance, out of prudence, a business might give more weight to the customers, who account for a bigger portion of its accounts receivable.

Particular Identification Technique

Let’s say a business has 100 clients and thinks 11 accounts might not be collected. It may just add up the account balances for all 11 clients and use that sum as the allowance amount instead of using percentages or weights. Companies frequently use a particular strategy to determine which businesses to include and which to leave out.

How to Calculate the Provision for Uncertainty

Setting Up the Allowance

Establishing the allowance is the first stage in accounting for the allowance for dubious accounts. This is accomplished by estimating how much of the accounts receivable will not be collected using one of the estimation techniques mentioned above. For this example, let’s imagine that a business expects to accrue $500,000 in uncollected accounts receivable.

The corporation must debit a loss to create the allowance. Businesses most frequently employ an account called “Bad Debt Expense.” The corporation then credits an account for allowances frequently referred to as “Allowance for Doubtful Accounts” to establish the allowance. Despite being included as an asset alongside other assets on the balance sheet, the allowance for doubtful accounts is a counter asset that lowers the balance of total assets.

CR Allowance for Doubtful Accounts $500,000 DR Bad Debt Expense $500,000

Changes to the Allowance

Say six months have passed. The business is now more aware of which account receivables will be lost and which will be collected. Let’s take the scenario where the business now estimates that $600,000 in receivables will be lost. This indicates that it is $100,000 shy of its $500,000 allotment. The allowance’s credit balance must also be increased. Thus, the corporation must enter an additional expense for this sum.

$100,000 in DR bad debt expenses
$100,000 CR Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

Abandoning the Account

Suppose a certain client who owes a business $50,000 formally declares bankruptcy. The estimate for the allowance has previously considered this client’s account. The business determines that it is unlikely to get any of this $50,000 because it has a very low-priority claim against the debt without any collateral. The Company must lower its balance of accounts receivable by this amount to accurately represent this change. On the other hand, there is no requirement to record a related allowance for this account once the receivable has been deleted from the books.

  • $50,000 DR Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
  • $50,000 in CR Accounts Receivable

Because contra assets have a natural credit balance, it should be noted that the debit to the allowance for dubious accounts lowers the amount in this account. Also, note that no income statement accounts are employed when writing off the particular account. This is because the expense was previously deducted when establishing or modifying the allowance.

Getting Your Account Back

By some miracle, it appears that the Company was ultimately paid back some of the outstanding sums on their accounts receivable that they had written off as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. The corporation is informed that they will receive $35,000 of the written-off amount of $50,000.

The business can reclaim the account by reversing the preceding item to reinstate the accounts receivable balance and the associated allowance for the doubtful account balance. When the payment is received, the business will document a debit to cash and a credit to accounts receivable. You’ll observe that. As a result, the allowed-for speculative accounts rise. The entry under the “Adjusting the Allowance” section above might be used by a corporation to make additional adjustments to the balance.

Accounts Receivable: $35,000. Doubtful Accounts Allowance: $35,000.
$35 000 DR Cash $35 000 CR Receivables $35 000

How Is the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts Recorded?

By debiting the Bad Debt Expense account and crediting the provision for questionable Accounts account, the provision for questionable accounts is recorded. As you’ll see, the allowance account has a natural credit balance and will rise when credited.

Are Doubtful Account Allowances a Credit or a Debit?

A contra asset is an account for doubtful accounts. Even though their inherent balance is the opposite of assets, contra assets are still documented with other assets. Contrarily, assets have natural credit balances and grow when there is a credit, whereas assets have natural debit balances and grow when there is a debit.

Are Provision for Uncertainty Accounts Current Assets?

Yes, allowance accounts that reduce gross receivables are shown on the balance sheet under current assets. The quantity of the gross accounts receivable account is decreased by this kind of account, which is a contra asset.

Why Do Accountants Use the Doubtful Accounts Allowance?

To follow the matching principle, accounts estimate the allowance using this way. According to the matching principle, revenue and expenses must be recorded in the same period that they take place. The allowance is, therefore, primarily created for the expense to be recognized while it is earned.

The amount of accounts receivable that won’t be collected is estimated using the allowance for dubious accounts, a general ledger item. This account is used by a business to track how many receivables it anticipates losing. Numerous methods may be used to estimate the balance, and management should review it regularly to ensure the amount of bad debt expense and net accounts receivables are being recorded.


  • Although businesses may specifically trace accounts, the allowance for doubtful accounts is a counter account that tracks the proportion of receivables anticipated to be uncollectible.
  • With an offset to bad debt charge, the allowance is created in the same financial year as the initial transaction.
  • The two most popular methods for estimating uncollectible accounts are the percentage of sales technique and the accounts receivable aging method.
  • To come up with the estimate, businesses might also employ specific identification, historical data, and risk assignment.
  • The allowance’s goal is to reflect the net amount of assets utilizing the conservative principle and the matching concept for revenue and expenses.

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