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What is Allowance for Doubtful Accounts? [Calculation & Journal Entry]

19 August, 2022
5mins read
Rachelle Fisher, AVP, Digital Transformation
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What you'll learn

  • What is an allowance for doubtful accounts, and how to calculate it?
  • Industry average of allowance for doubtful accounts
  • How to record an allowance for doubtful accounts on the balance sheet?
  • Difference between bad debt expense and allowance for doubtful accounts
  • How can automation help reduce doubtful accounts?
CONTENT
Introduction
What is an allowance for doubtful accounts (ADA)?
How to calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts?
What is the industry average allowance for doubtful accounts?
How is the allowance for doubtful accounts recorded in the balance sheet or as journal entries?
What is the difference between bad debt expense and allowance for doubtful accounts?
How can HighRadius help reduce the number of doubtful accounts?
FAQs
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Introduction

Businesses that offer trade credit to their customers keep an allowance for doubtful accounts on their balance sheet. It is an estimate of the amount of accounts receivable (AR) that a business expects to become bad debt.

Allowance for doubtful accounts falls under the contra assets section of a company’s balance sheet. It is then added to their total AR to get the approximate dues they expect will be cleared by their customers. 

For example, if a business has a total accounts receivable of $1,000,000 and their allowance for doubtful accounts is 5%, which is $50,000, then the net AR will be $950,000.

What is an allowance for doubtful accounts (ADA)?

An allowance for doubtful accounts is a prediction made by a company on the percentage of accounts receivable they foresee to be uncollectible. So, instead of waiting for customers to default, businesses prepare in advance a bad debt reserve to ensure their operations aren’t affected by a sudden cash crunch.

Allowance for doubtful accounts is used in the accrual accounting method and also helps improve financial reporting accuracy. It also gives a detailed overview of a company’s revenue and expenses during a particular period.

Purpose of allowance for doubtful accounts

A report from PYMNTS.com says that 93% of businesses receive late payments from customers, and companies write off 1.5% of their accounts receivables, on average. So, having an allowance for doubtful accounts is critical as it indicates the bad debt expense a company expects to incur. It also helps to increase the accuracy of financial reports.

How to calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts?

There are two primary ways to calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts. They are:

calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts

  1. Percentage of sales method
  2. It only takes into account the credit sales of a company. Here the business assesses its past records and chooses an appropriate percentage of AR they expect to go unpaid. It could be 2% for some companies and 5% for others. Since the estimate is made by taking historical data into account, it gives a very close idea of the bad debt a business might incur.

    For example, Company A identifies that its bad debt has been around 4-6% (of AR) for the past 3 years. It might then estimate that an average of 5% of its AR will go unpaid. Hence, if its total accounts receivable is $500,000, the allowance for doubtful accounts will be (5/100* 500000 = $25,000).

  3. AR aging method
  4. Accounts receivable aging is a more precise method to calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts. Here a business takes into account both payment dues and the time it has been due for. There can be several windows like 0-30 days, 30-60 days, 60-90 days, and so on.

    Let’s say company XYZ expects 2% of its payment dues between 0-30 days to turn into bad debt. While, the expected bad debt percentage for invoices that are due for 30-60 days and 60-90 days is 5% and 10%, respectively. 

    So, if the accounts receivable during these periods are $100,000, $150,000, and $50,000, respectively, then:

    Allowance for Doubtful Accounts = (2/100 * 100,000) + (5/100 * 150,000) + (10/100 * 50,000) = $14,500

Other Methods

There are several other methods like Risk classification, Historical percentage, and Pareto analysis used to calculate the allowance for doubtful accounts. 

In the risk classification method, the average of the total pending AR in the different risk categories (low, medium, and high) is taken as the allowance for doubtful accounts. On the other hand, the historical percentage method uses past data on bad debts to give an approximation of the allowance a business needs to keep for its doubtful accounts.

The Pareto analysis method analyzes only large accounts that total up to 80% of the overall receivables. Businesses can then identify the most important and high-risk accounts and get an approximate idea of which customers might default. For the smaller accounts, the business then uses the historical percentage method. The Pareto analysis method is generally used by companies that have only a few large accounts.

What is the industry average allowance for doubtful accounts?

The allowance for doubtful accounts varies widely from industry to industry. Since it is an estimate of the bad debt expense a company expects to incur, days sales outstanding (DSO) also plays a vital role in its calculation. In other words, the higher the DSO of a company, the higher its allowance must be. 

For example, a report from D&B states that 76% of customers in the Mfg sheet metalwork industry pay on time, while this figure is only 46% for the equipment rental/leasing industry. So, the allowance will be lower for the metalwork industry and higher for the equipment rental industry.

Industry Paying current Up to 30 days late 30-60 days late 60-90 days late 91+ days late
Passenger Car rental 51% 22% 8% 5% 15%
Equipment rental 46% 12% 14% 14% 15%
Repair services 58% 17% 7% 4% 15%
Whol drugs/ sundries 64% 14% 5% 5% 12%
Construction 51% 14% 2% 2% 31%
Ret furniture 54% 20% 8% 5% 13%

 

A company’s allowance for doubtful accounts is directly proportional to its days sales outstanding (DSO). 

How is the allowance for doubtful accounts recorded in the balance sheet or as journal entries?

Allowance for doubtful accounts falls under the contra assets section in the balance sheet, meaning it can either be zero or negative. So, when a company estimates they will have $15,000 in bad debt, they debit bad debt expense on the balance sheet and credit the allowance for doubtful accounts. 

This means if the net AR of the company is $200,000, the actual payment a business expects to receive is ($200,000 – $15,000 = $185,000)
the net AR of the company

Now, let’s say you want to write off $10,000 in bad debt for your business. In that case, the allowance for doubtful accounts will be debited, and accounts receivable will be credited. However, the net AR doesn’t get affected, and only the remaining allowance reduces from $15,000 to $5,000.

allowance

In some scenarios, there is a chance that a customer is unable to pay, and their AR is written off as bad debt. But a few weeks or months later, they make the payment and clear their dues. In such cases, the business must first debit its AR account and credit its allowance for doubtful accounts. After this, cash will be debited, and AR will be credited.

AR account and credit

What is the difference between bad debt expense and allowance for doubtful accounts?

Most B2B businesses operate by extending trade credit to their customers for a fixed time period. Customers who don’t pay on time are categorized as doubtful accounts asunder. Among these doubtful accounts, some make the payment after multiple follow-ups, and some do not pay at all. So, bad debt expense is the accounts receivable that a business fails to recover from such accounts.

On the other hand, allowance for doubtful accounts is an estimation of the AR that a business expects to go unpaid. It is deducted from the total AR of a company even before a customer defaults. So, it is not necessarily the exact bad debt a company will incur. Sometimes the collections team might do an excellent job, and bad debt will be much lower, while at other times, it could be a lot higher.

How can HighRadius help reduce the number of doubtful accounts?

Being proactive with your e-invoicing and collections process is the easiest way to reduce the number of doubtful or delinquent accounts. A reliable AR automation solution can help you achieve better cash flow, lower bad debt, and improve profits by analyzing customer behavior, risk, and past data.

A report from PYMNTS.com shows that 87% of companies that automate their AR processes experience reduced processing times, while 79% of teams report an increase in efficiency and 75% are able to offer a superior customer experience.

RadiusOne eInvoicing and Collections App can help your business reduce bad debt by prioritizing collections from high-risk customers, automating dunning processes, and providing real-time data and analytics. It also cuts down the invoicing costs and reduces payment friction for the customer by giving them payment multiple options.

FAQs

  1. Is allowance for doubtful accounts a current asset?
  2. Allowance for doubtful accounts falls under contra assets and not the current assets section. A contra asset account means its balance will either be zero or negative (credit balance).

  3. Is allowance for doubtful accounts a temporary account?
  4. Allowance for doubtful accounts is not a temporary account as they get carried forward to the next financial year. So, it is categorized under permanent accounts.

  5. How to adjust the allowance for doubtful accounts?
  6. When the balance on allowance for doubtful accounts is credited, the bad debt expenses are debited. 

  7. Is allowance for doubtful accounts a debit or credit?
  8. Allowance for doubtful accounts is a credit account, meaning it can be either zero or negative. It records a decrease in the value of assets or an increase in liabilities. 

  9. What type of account is an allowance for doubtful accounts?
  10. Allowance for doubtful accounts falls under the contra asset section, which means it will either be zero or negative. It is usually added to the total accounts receivable to give the net AR value.

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