Definition of Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
The allowance for doubtful accounts is a balance sheet contra asset account that reduces the reported amount of accounts receivable. The use of this allowance account will result in a more realistic picture of the amount of the accounts receivable that will be turning to cash, since some customers may not pay the full amount owed to the company.
The credit balance in the allowance account is an estimate amount in an adjusting entry that debits the income statement account Bad Debts Expense and credits Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. While the allowance account is recommended for the company's financial statements, it is not acceptable for income tax purposes.
Example of the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
Let's assume that a company has a debit balance in Accounts Receivable of $120,500 as a result of having sold goods on credit. Through the use of the aging method, the company sees that $18,000 of the receivables are 100 days past due. Upon further checking, the company believes that $10,000 of these receivables will never be collected. Thus, the account Allowance for Doubtful Account must have a credit balance of $10,000. If the present balance is $0, the journal entry will be a debit of $10,000 to Bad Debts Expense and a credit of $10,000 to Allowance for Doubtful Accounts.
The balance sheet will now report Accounts Receivable of $120,500 less the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts of $10,000, for a net amount of $110,500. The income statement for the accounting period will report Bad Debts Expense of $10,000.