What is the difference between reserve and provision?

In the U.S. the use of the word reserve has been discouraged for several decades. In its place, the accounting profession has recommended the use of words such as allowance, accumulated, or provision. For instance, many years ago the contra account to a plant asset may have been titled Depreciation Reserve. To some readers, that name implied that cash had been set aside to replace the asset. To better communicate reality, the accounting profession recommended a more descriptive title such as Accumulated Depreciation. Similarly, the contra account to Accounts Receivable may have been titled Reserve for Bad Debts. Again, that title could imply that money was set aside. To avoid misinterpretation, the accounting profession suggested Allowance for Bad Debts or Provision for Bad Debts.

The word provision might appear in the title of a contra account as we just noted. In addition, provision will occasionally appear in the title of an expense account, such as Provision for Income Taxes.

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