What is discount on bonds payable?

Definition of Discount on Bonds Payable

Discount on bonds payable (or bond discount) occurs when a corporation issues bonds and receives less than the bonds' face or maturity amount. The root cause of the bond discount is the bonds have a stated interest rate which is lower than the market interest rate for similar bonds.

The difference between the amount received and the face or maturity amount is recorded in the corporation's general ledger contra liability account Discount on Bonds Payable. This amount will then be amortized to Bond Interest Expense over the life of the bonds.

Example of Discount on Bonds Payable

Assume that a corporation prepares to issue bonds having a maturity amount of $10,000,000 and a stated interest rate of 6% (per year). However, when the bonds are actually sold to investors, the market interest rate is 6.1%. Since these bonds will be paying the investors less than the market rate of interest ($300,000 semiannually instead of $305,000), the investors will pay less than $10,000,000 for the bonds.

Assume the investors pay $9,800,000 for the bonds having a face or maturity value of $10,000,000. The difference of $200,000 will be recorded by the issuing corporation as a debit to Discount on Bonds Payable, a debit to Cash for $9,800,000, and a credit to Bonds Payable for $10,000,000.

Over the life of the bonds, the initial debit balance in Discount on Bonds Payable will decrease as it is amortized to Bond Interest Expense.

The combination of the unamortized debit balance in Discount on Bonds Payable, the unamortized debit balance in Bond Issue Costs, and the $10,000,000 credit balance in Bonds Payable is referred to as the book value (or carrying value) of the bonds payable.

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