An allowance for doubtful accounts is considered a “contra asset,” because it reduces the amount of an asset, in this case the accounts receivable. The allowance, sometimes called a bad debt reserve, represents management’s estimate of the amount of accounts receivable that will not be paid by customers. If actual experience differs, then management adjusts its estimation methodology to bring the reserve more into alignment with actual results.
In accrual-basis accounting, recording the allowance for doubtful accounts at the same time as the sale improves the accuracy of financial reports. The projected bad debt expense is properly matched against the related sale, thereby providing a more accurate view of revenue and expenses for a specific period of time. In addition, this accounting process prevents the large swings in operating results when uncollectible accounts are written off directly as bad debt expenses.
Units should consider using an allowance for doubtful accounts when they are regularly providing goods or services “on credit” and have experience with the collectability of those accounts. The following entry should be done in accordance with your revenue and reporting cycles (recording the expense in the same reporting period as the revenue is earned), but at a minimum, annually.
DR Bad Debt Expense
CR Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
|Object Code||Object Code Name||Description|
|6330||Bad Debt Expense||Write off of uncollectable Accounts Receivable.
Use: Use with approval from the Division of Financial Affairs only.
|1250||Allowance for Doubtful Accts||Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a contra current asset object code associated with A/R. When the allowance object code is used, the unit is anticipating that some accounts will be uncollectible in advance of knowing the specific amount.
Use: Units billing sales to external customers where the possibility of default exists. The allowance normalizes fund balance activity.
When it is determined that an account cannot be collected, the receivable balance should be written off. When the unit maintains an allowance for doubtful accounts, the write-off reduces the outstanding accounts receivable, and is charged against the allowance – do not record bad debt expense again!
DR Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
CR Accounts Receivable