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الثلاثاء، 13 يناير، 2015

Accounts Receivable and Bad Debts Expense part2

Writing Off an Account under the Allowance Method

Under the allowance method, if a specific customer's accounts receivable is identified as uncollectible, it is written off by removing the amount from Accounts Receivable. The entry to write off a bad account affects only balance sheet accounts: a debit to Allowance for Doubtful Accounts and a credit to Accounts Receivable. No expense or loss is reported on the income statement because this write-off is "covered" under the earlier adjusting entries for estimated bad debts expense.
Let's illustrate the write-off with the following example. On June 3, a customer purchases $1,400 of goods on credit from Gem Merchandise Co. On August 24, that same customer informs Gem Merchandise Co. that it has filed for bankruptcy. The customer states that its bank has a lien on all of its assets. It also states that the liquidation value of those assets is less than the amount it owes the bank, and as a result Gem will receive nothing toward its $1,400 accounts receivable. After confirming this information, Gem concludes that it should remove, or write off, the customer's account balance of $1,400.
Under the allowance method of recording credit losses, Gem's entry to write off the customer's account balance is as follows:
24X-journal-09
The two accounts affected by this entry contain this information:
24X-t-account-06a24X-t-account-07
Note that prior to the August 24 entry of $1,400 to write off the uncollectible amount, the net realizable value of the accounts receivables was $230,000 ($240,000 debit balance in Accounts Receivable and $10,000 credit balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts). After writing off the bad account on August 24, the net realizable value of the accounts receivable is still $230,000 ($238,600 debit balance in Accounts Receivable and $8,600 credit balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts).
The Bad Debts Expense remains at $10,000; it is not directly affected by the journal entry write-off. The bad debts expense recorded on June 30 and July 31 had anticipated a credit loss such as this. It would be double counting for Gem to record both an anticipated estimate of a credit loss and the actual credit loss.

Recovery of Account under Allowance Method

After a seller has written off an accounts receivable, it is possible that the seller is paid part or all of the account balance that was written off. Under the allowance method, if such a payment is received (whether directly from the customer or as a result of a court action) the seller will take the following two steps:
  1. Reinstate the account that was written off by reversing the write-off entry. If we assume that the $1,400 written off on Aug 24 is collected on October 10, the reinstatement of the account looks like this:
    24X-journal-10
  2. Process the $1,400 received on October 10:
    24X-journal-11
The seller's accounting records now show that the account receivable was paid, making it more likely that the seller might do future business with this customer.

Bad Debts Expense as a Percent of Sales

Another way sellers apply the allowance method of recording bad debts expense is by using the percentage of credit sales approach. This approach automatically expenses a percentage of its credit sales based on past history.
For example, let's assume that a company prepares weekly financial statements. Past experience indicates that 0.3% of its sales on credit will never be collected. Using the percentage of credit sales approach, this company automatically debits Bad Debts Expense and credits Allowance for Doubtful Accounts for 0.3% of each week's credit sales. Let's assume that in the current week this company sells $500,000 of goods on credit. It estimates its bad debts expense to be $1,500 (0.003 x $500,000) and records the following journal entry:
24X-journal-12
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.

Difference between Expense and Allowance

The account Bad Debts Expense reports the credit losses that occur during the period of time covered by the income statement. Bad Debts Expense is a temporary account on the income statement, meaning it is closed at the end of each accounting year. (Closed means the account balance is transferred to retained earnings, perhaps through an income summary account.) By closing Bad Debts Expense and resetting its balance to zero, the account is ready to receive and tally the credit losses for the next accounting year.
The Allowance for Doubtful Accounts reports on the balance sheet the estimated amount of uncollectible accounts that are included in Accounts Receivable. Balance sheet accounts are almost always permanentaccounts, meaning their balances carry forward to the next accounting period. In other words, they are not closed and their balances are not reset to zero.
Because the Bad Debts Expense account is closed each year, while the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is not, these two balances will most likely not be equal after the company's first year of operations.
For example, let's assume that at the end of its first year of operations a company's Bad Debts Expense had a debit balance of $14,000 and its Allowance for Doubtful Accounts had a credit balance of $14,000. Because the income statement account balances are closed at the end of the year, the company's opening balance in Bad Debts Expense for the second year of operations is $0. The credit balance of $14,000 in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts, however, carries forward to the second year. If an adjusting entry of $3,000 is made during year 2, Bad Debts Expense will report a $3,000 debit balance, while Allowance for Doubtful Accounts might report a credit balance of $17,000.
Again, the reasons for the account balance differences are 1) Bad Debts Expense is a temporary account that reports credit losses only for the period shown on the income statement, and 2) Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a permanent account that reports an estimated amount for all of the uncollectible receivables reported in the asset Accounts Receivable as of the balance sheet date.

Aging of Accounts Receivable

The general ledger account Accounts Receivable usually contains only summary amounts and is referred to as a control account. The details for the control account—each credit sale for every customer—is found in the subsidiary ledger for Accounts Receivable. The total amount of all the details in the subsidiary ledger must be equal to the total amount reported in the control account.
The detailed information in the accounts receivable subsidiary ledger is used to prepare a report known as theaging of accounts receivable. This report directs management's attention to accounts that are slow to pay. It is also useful in determining the balance amount needed in the account Allowance for Doubtful Accounts.
The aging of accounts receivable report is typically generated by sorting unpaid sales invoices in the subsidiary ledger—first by customer and then by the date of the sales invoices. If a company sells merchandise (or provides services) and allows customers to pay 30 days later, this report will indicate how much of its accounts receivable is past due. It also reports how far past due the accounts are.
With the click of a mouse, most accounting software will provide the aging of accounts receivable report. For example, Gem Merchandise Co.'s software looks at each of its customer's accounts receivable activity and compares the date of each unpaid sales invoice to the date of the report. If we assume the report is dated August 31 and that Gem's credit terms are net 30 days, any unpaid sales invoices with an August date will be classified as current. Any unpaid invoices with a date in July are classified as 1 - 30 days past due. Any unpaid invoices with a date of June are classified as 31 - 60 days past due, and so on. The sorted information is present in a report that looks similar to the following:
24X-table-01
If a customer realizes that one of its suppliers is lax about collecting its account receivable on time, it may take advantage by further postponing payment in order to pay more demanding suppliers on time. This puts the seller at risk since an older, unpaid accounts receivable is more likely to end up as a credit loss. The aging of accounts receivable report helps management monitor and collect the accounts receivable in a more timely manner.

Aging Used in Calculating the Allowance

The aging of accounts receivable can also be used to estimate the credit balance needed in a company's Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. For example, based on past experience, a company might make the assumption that accounts not past due have a 99% probability of being collected in full. Accounts that are 1-30 days past due have a 97% probability of being collected in full, and the accounts 31-60 days past due have a 90% probability. The company estimates that accounts more than 60 days past due have only a 60% chance of being collected. With these probabilities of collection, the probability of not collecting is 1%, 3%, 10%, and 40% respectively.
If we multiply the totals from the aging of accounts receivable report by the probabilities of not collecting, we arrive at the expected amount of uncollectible receivables. This is illustrated below:
24X-table-02
This computation estimates the balance needed for Allowance for Doubtful Accounts at August 31 to be a credit balance of $8,585.

Mailing Statements to Customers

To improve the probability of collection (and avoid bad debts expense) many sellers prepare and mail monthly statements to all customers that have accounts receivable balances. If worded skillfully, the seller can use the statement to say "thank you for your continued business" while at the same time "reminding" the customer that receivables are being monitored and payment is expected. To further prompt customers to pay in a timely manner, the statement may indicate that past due accounts are assessed interest at an annual rate of 18% (1.5% per month). Because transactions are usually itemized on the statement, some customers use the statement as a means to compare its records with those of the seller.

Pledging or Selling Accounts Receivable

A company's accounts receivable are considered to be a type of asset, and as such can be pledged as collateral for a loan. Asset-based lenders will often lend a company an amount equal to 80% of the value of its accounts receivable.
Some companies sell their accounts receivable to a factor. A factor buys the accounts receivables at a discount and then goes about the business of collecting and keeping the money owed through the receivables. Sometimes the factor will purchase the accounts receivables with recourse. This means the company that sold the receivables remains financially responsible if a customer does not remit the full amount to the factor. When the factor purchases the receivables without recourse, the company selling the receivables is not responsible for unpaid amounts.

Accounts Receivable Ratios

There are two commonly used financial ratios that address the relationship between the amount of a company's accounts receivable as reported on the balance sheet and the amount of credit sales as reported on the income statement. These ratios are:
  1. Accounts receivable turnover ratio, and
  2. Days sales in accounts receivable.
Use the following link to learn how to calculate these ratios: Financial Ratios.

Direct Write-off Method

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) require that companies use the allowance method when preparing financial statements. The use of the allowance method is not permitted, however, for purposes of reporting income taxes in the United States because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not allow companies to anticipate these credit losses. As a result, companies must use the direct write-off method for income tax reporting.
In the direct write-off method, a company will not use an allowance account to reduce its Accounts Receivable. Accounts Receivable is only reduced if and when a company knows with certainty that a specific amount will not be collected from a specific customer.
For example, let's assume that on October 21, Gem Merchandise Co. is convinced that a specific customer's account receivable originating on June 5 in the amount of $1,238 is definitely uncollectible. Using the direct write-off method, the following entry is made:
24X-journal-13
Usually many months will pass between the time of the sale on credit and the time that the seller knows with certainty that a customer is not going to pay. It is difficult to adhere to the matching principle and the concept of conservatism when a significant amount of time elapses between the time of the sales revenues and the time that the bad debts expense is reported. This is why, for purposes of financial reporting (not tax reporting), companies should use the allowance method rather than the direct write-off method.

Additional Information and Resources

Because the material covered here is considered an introduction to this topic, many complexities have been omitted. You should always consult with an accounting professional for assistance with your own specific circumstances.

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