Writing Off an Account under the Allowance MethodUnder 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: The two accounts affected by this entry contain this information: 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 MethodAfter 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:
- 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:
- Process the $1,400 received on October 10: