Difference Between Direct Write Off Method and Allowance Method

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As a result, it is much easier to resolve missing or incomplete payments. The first entry will restore the balance in accounts receivable. It seems counterintuitive to restore the balance to pay it off, but for recordkeeping purposes, it is necessary to restore the account balance and show the customer properly paid his debt.

Bad debt expense is reported within the selling, general, and administrative expense section of the income statement. However, the entries to record this bad debt expense may be spread throughout a set of financial statements. The allowance for doubtful accounts resides on the balance sheet as a contra asset. Meanwhile, any bad debts that are directly written off reduce the accounts receivable balance on the balance sheet.


For tax purposes, companies must use the direct write-off method, under which bad debts are recognized only after the company is certain the debt will not be paid. The accounting team credits the accounts receivable account with the total value of what customers owe. This can make it seem as if the company has more accounts receivable or cash in hand than it actually does. The most important thing to remember when working with the allowance methods for bad debt is to know what you have calculated! Once you figure a dollar amount, ask yourself if that amount is the bad debt expense or the allowance. If it is the allowance, you must then figure out how much bad debt to record in order to get to that balance.

Business Case Studies

The direct write-off method in accounting is based on the principle of revenue recognition, which says that income should be recorded in the accounting books when it is earned. The revenue recognition principle says that when a debt can’t be paid back, the amount should be taken out of the accounts receivable balance. This directly impacts the balance sheet, which reflects the financial status of a business at a given point in time. The accounts receivable balance is reduced, which is reflected in the business’s total assets. Natalie has many customers who purchase goods from her on credit and pay. One of her customers purchased products worth $ 1,500 a year ago, and Natalie still hasn’t been able to collect the payment.

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Recognizing the bad debt requires a journal entry that increases a bad debts expense account and decreases accounts receivable. Smith fails to pay a $225 balance, for example, the company records the write‐off by debiting bad debts expense and crediting accounts receivable from J. On the company’s financial statements, the debit to bad debt expense in the journal entry will reduce the company’s profit by the amount that income was recognized in a previous period. Because the customer’s account balance is “written-off” or decreased by a credit to accounts receivable, the company’s current assets shown on the balance sheet are also reduced by $12,500.

The Direct Write-Off Method in Practice – Introduction to the Direct Write-Off Method for Beginners

As a direct write-off method example, imagine that a business submits an invoice for $500 to a client, but months have gone by and the client still hasn’t paid. At some point, the business might decide that this debt will never be paid, so it would debit the Bad Debts Expense account for $500 and apply this same $500 as a credit to Accounts Receivable. The direct-write-off method does not comply with the matching principle and is also not accepted under GAAP. The matching principle states that expenses must be recorded when revenue is earned, but under the direct write-off, method expenses are recorded in the future months. If you are a business owner who requires regular insights about recording accounts, Akounto contributes to corporate citizenship by helping maintain accurate books of accounts. Expert support helps in responsible decision-making and safeguarding the stakeholders’ interests.

Smith’s account is the only one shown with the cash receipts journal entry in the illustration below. Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a holding account for potential bad debt. If the company underestimates the amount of bad debt, the allowance can have a debit balance. If the company uses a percentage of sales method, it must ensure that there will be enough in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts to handle the amount of receivables that go bad during the year.

The accounts receivable department may write off uncollectible accounts because it is no longer worth spending effort on collecting the debt. In some cases, the cost of pursuing the debt might outpace the amount owed. For example, going to court might cost more upfront in legal fees and labor hours than the unpaid debt. As discussed above, the direct write off method violates GAAP as the revenue and expense accounts are not matched in the same period.

Is Bad Debt an Expense or a Loss?

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Bad debt is the money that a customer or customers owe that you don’t believe you will be able to collect. Notice how we do not use bad debts expense in a write-off under the allowance method. The direct write off method is a way businesses account for debt can’t be collected from clients, where the Bad Debts Expense account is debited and Accounts Receivable is credited.

Dec. 31 Made an https://1investing.in/ entry to accrue interest on the Go-Mart note. She is a Certified Public Accountant with over 10 years of accounting and finance experience. Though working as a consultant, most of her career has been spent in corporate finance. Helstrom attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and has her Bachelor of Science in accounting. Smith’s payment history, the account’s activity will show the eventual collection of the amount owed.

What is the Percentage of Sales Method?

This allowance can accumulate across accounting periods and may be adjusted based on the balance in the account. To record the bad debt, which is an adjusting entry, debit Bad Debt Expense and credit Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. When a customer is identified as uncollectible, we would credit Accounts Receivable. We cannot debit bad debt because we have already recorded bad debt to cover the percentage of sales that would go bad, including this sale. Remember that allowance for doubtful accounts is the holding account in which we placed the amount we estimated would go bad.

This allows companies to write off large bad debts without worrying about exceeding specific allowances. The direct write-off method is simple to understand and implement. Businesses do not need to keep track of specific allowances for bad debts and can simply write off a debt as soon as it is determined to be uncollectible.

The longer a debt has been outstanding, the less likely it is that the balance will be collected. The aging method breaks down receivables based on the length of time each has been outstanding and applies a higher percentage to older debts. The contra-asset, Allowance for Doubtful Accounts, is proportional to the balance in the corresponding asset, Accounts Receivable.


The percentage of sales method is based on the premise that the amount of bad debt is based on some measure of sales, either total sales or credit sales. Based on prior years, a company can reasonably estimate what percentage of the sales measure will not be collected. If a company takes a percentage of sales , the calculated amount is the amount of the related bad debt expense. The direct write-off method doesn’t follow the matching principle of accounting, which says that expenses should be counted in the same period as the income they relate to.

How do you record the sale of inventory to a customer who the credit manager deems will have a 10% chance of paying? The sale occurred December 1st 2015 and has payment due in 60days, so at year end December 31st 2015 the account is not yet due. In the current year, you could credit A/R and debit the account used to record the finance charge income.

  • The allowance method aims to increase the accuracy of your books so you don’t anticipate having more money than you will have.
  • Show how accounts receivable would be reported on the balance sheet at December 31, 2018.
  • Similar to its name, the allowance for doubtful accounts reports a prediction of receivables that are “doubtful” to be paid.
  • In accounting, accounts receivable is a current asset account that records all sales of goods, supply of service, etc., on an account basis.

Using the direct write-off credit memo overstates the profit from the sale, understates profits when the loss is written off and overstates accounts receivable in between. Accounts receivable are the assets a business records when customers owe them money. These effects make forecasting less accurate and can make an insolvent business appear more financially sound.