Accounts receivable

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Accounts receivable is a legally enforceable claim for payment held by a business for goods supplied and/or services rendered that customers/clients have ordered but not paid for. These are generally in the form of invoices raised by a business and delivered to the customer for payment within an agreed time frame. Accounts receivable is shown in a balance sheet as an asset. It is one of a series of accounting transactions dealing with the billing of a customer for goods and services that the customer has ordered. These may be distinguished from notes receivable, which are debts created through formal legal instruments called promissory notes. [1]

Balance sheet summary of the financial balances of a sole proprietorship, a business partnership, a corporation or other business organization

In financial accounting, a balance sheet or statement of financial position is a summary of the financial balances of an individual or organization, whether it be a sole proprietorship, a business partnership, a corporation, private limited company or other organization such as Government or not-for-profit entity. Assets, liabilities and ownership equity are listed as of a specific date, such as the end of its financial year. A balance sheet is often described as a "snapshot of a company's financial condition". Of the four basic financial statements, the balance sheet is the only statement which applies to a single point in time of a business' calendar year.

Asset economic resource, from which future economic benefits are expected

In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned by the business. Anything tangible or intangible that can be owned or controlled to produce value and that is held by a company to produce positive economic value is an asset. Simply stated, assets represent value of ownership that can be converted into cash. The balance sheet of a firm records the monetary value of the assets owned by that firm. It covers money and other valuables belonging to an individual or to a business.

Accounting measurement, processing and communication of financial information about economic entities

Accounting or accountancy is the measurement, processing, and communication of financial information about economic entities such as businesses and corporations. The modern field was established by the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli in 1494. Accounting, which has been called the "language of business", measures the results of an organization's economic activities and conveys this information to a variety of users, including investors, creditors, management, and regulators. Practitioners of accounting are known as accountants. The terms "accounting" and "financial reporting" are often used as synonyms.



Accounts receivable represents money owed by entities to the firm on the sale of products or services on credit. In most business entities, accounts receivable is typically executed by generating an invoice and either mailing or electronically delivering it to the customer, who, in turn, must pay it within an established timeframe, called credit terms[ citation needed ] or payment terms.

An invoice, bill or tab is a commercial document issued by a seller to a buyer, relating to a sale transaction and indicating the products, quantities, and agreed prices for products or services the seller had provided the buyer.

Electronic billing or electronic bill payment and presentment, is when a seller such as company, organization, or group sends its bills or invoices over the internet, and customers pay the bills electronically. This replaces the traditional method where invoices were sent in paper form and payments were done by manual means such as sending cheques.

The accounts receivable department uses the sales ledger, because a sales ledger normally records: [2]

The accounts receivable team is in charge of receiving funds on behalf of a company and applying it towards their current pending balances.

Collections and cashiering teams are part of the accounts receivable department. While the collections department seeks the debtor, the cashiering team applies the monies received.

Payment terms

An example of a common payment term is Net 30 days, which means that payment is due at the end of 30 days from the date of invoice. The debtor is free to pay before the due date; businesses can offer a discount for early payment. Other common payment terms include Net 45, Net 60 and 30 days end of month. The creditor may be able to charge late fees or interest if the amount is not paid by the due date.

A debtor is an entity that owes a debt to another entity. The entity may be an individual, a firm, a government, a company or other legal person. The counterparty is called a creditor. When the counterpart of this debt arrangement is a bank, the debtor is more often referred to as a borrower.

Discounts and allowances reductions in the basic prices of goods or services

Discounts and allowances are reductions to a basic price of goods or services.

Booking a receivable is accomplished by a simple accounting transaction; however, the process of maintaining and collecting payments on the accounts receivable subsidiary account balances can be a full-time proposition. Depending on the industry in practice, accounts receivable payments can be received up to 10 – 15 days after the due date has been reached. These types of payment practices are sometimes developed by industry standards, corporate policy, or because of the financial condition of the client.

Since not all customer debts will be collected, businesses typically estimate the amount of and then record an allowance for doubtful accounts [3] which appears on the balance sheet as a contra account that offsets total accounts receivable. When accounts receivable are not paid, some companies turn them over to third party collection agencies or collection attorneys who will attempt to recover the debt via negotiating payment plans, settlement offers or pursuing other legal action.

Outstanding advances are part of accounts receivable if a company gets an order from its customers with payment terms agreed upon in advance. Since billing is done to claim the advances several times, this area of collectible is not reflected in accounts receivables. Ideally, since advance payment occurs within a mutually agreed-upon term, it is the responsibility of the accounts department to periodically take out the statement showing advance collectible and should be provided to sales & marketing for collection of advances. The payment of accounts receivable can be protected either by a letter of credit or by Trade Credit Insurance.

Letter of credit document issued by a financial institution

A letter of credit (LC), also known as a documentary credit or bankers commercial credit, is a payment mechanism used in international trade to provide an economic guarantee from a creditworthy bank to an exporter of goods. A letter of credit is extremely common within international trade and goods delivery, where the reliability of contracting parties cannot be readily and easily determined. Its economic effect is to introduce a bank as underwriting the credit risk of the buyer paying the seller for goods.

Accounts Receivable Age Analysis

An Accountants Receivable Age Analysis, also known as the Debtors Book is divided in categories for current, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or longer. The analysis or report is commonly known as an Aged Trial Balance. Customers are typically listed in alphabetic order or by the amount outstanding, or according to the company chart of accounts. Zero balances are not usually shown.


On a company's balance sheet, accounts receivable are the money owed to that company by entities outside of the company. Account receivables are classified as current assets assuming that they are due within one calendar year or fiscal year. To record a journal entry for a sale on account, one must debit a receivable and credit a revenue account. When the customer pays off their accounts, one debits cash and credits the receivable in the journal entry. The ending balance on the trial balance sheet for accounts receivable is usually a debit.

Business organizations which have become too large to perform such tasks by hand (or small ones that could but prefer not to do them by hand) will generally use accounting software on a computer to perform this task.

Companies have two methods available to them for measuring the net value of accounts receivable, which is generally computed by subtracting the balance of an allowance account from the accounts receivable account.

The first method is the allowance method, which establishes a contra-asset account, allowance for doubtful accounts, or bad debt provision, that has the effect of reducing the balance for accounts receivable. The amount of the bad debt provision can be computed in two ways, either (1) by reviewing each individual debt and deciding whether it is doubtful (a specific provision); or (2) by providing for a fixed percentage (e.g. 2%) of total debtors (a general provision). The change in the bad debt provision from year to year is posted to the bad debt expense account in the income statement.

The second method is the direct write-off method. It is simpler than the allowance method in that it allows for one simple entry to reduce accounts receivable to its net realizable value. The entry would consist of debiting a bad debt expense account and crediting the respective accounts receivable in the sales ledger.

The two methods are not mutually exclusive, and some businesses will have a provision for doubtful debts, writing off specific debts that they know to be bad (for example, if the debtor has gone into liquidation.)

Special uses

Companies can use their accounts receivable as collateral when obtaining a loan (asset-based lending). They may also sell them through factoring or on an exchange. Pools or portfolios of accounts receivable can be sold in capital markets through securitization.

For tax reporting purposes, a general provision for bad debts is not an allowable deduction from profit [4] - a business can only get relief for specific debtors that have gone bad. However, for financial reporting purposes, companies may choose to have a general provision against bad debts consistent with their past experience of customer payments, in order to avoid over-stating debtors in the balance sheet.

Associated accounting issues include recognizing accounts receivable, valuing accounts receivable, and disposing of accounts receivable.

In the UK, most companies have a credit control department.

Other types of accounting transactions include accounts payable, payroll, and trial balance.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Belverd E. Needles, Marian Powers, Susan V. Crosson. (2010) Financial and Managerial Accounting, p. 373.
  2. "Running a limited company - GOV.UK". Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  4. HM Revenue & Customs. "Company Taxation Manual". Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2008-11-01.

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Bookkeeping recording of financial transactions

Bookkeeping is the recording of financial transactions, and is part of the process of accounting in business. Transactions include purchases, sales, receipts, and payments by an individual person or an organization/corporation. There are several standard methods of bookkeeping, including the single-entry and double-entry bookkeeping systems. While these may be viewed as "real" bookkeeping, any process for recording financial transactions is a bookkeeping process.

Debits and credits

In double entry bookkeeping, debits and credits are entries made in account ledgers to record changes in value resulting from business transactions. Generally speaking, if cash is spent in a business transaction, the cash account is credited, and conversely, when cash is obtained in a business transaction, it is described as a debit. Debits and Credits can occur in any account. For simplicity it is often best to view Debits as positive numbers and Credits as negative numbers. When all the debits and credits that are transacted in each account are added up the resulting account total could be a net Debit or a net Credit. If the total of the account is in a net Debit position (positive), it is generally classified in the Asset section of the balance sheet, whereas accounts that total to a net Credit (negative) are shown in the liability section of the balance sheet. Accounts that relate to the company's profit are totaled to yield company earnings and are classified in the Equity section of the balance sheet. When recording incoming cash (revenue) a Debit will be made to Cash or equivalent Assets and a Credit will be made on the revenue account in the income statement. If a company has a postitive Net Income, the Retained Earnings will receive a Credit when closing out the Income Statement for the year, while a Net Loss will result in a Debit to the Retained Earnings. A net Credit (negative) balance in Retained Earnings in the Equity Section demonstrates that the company has been profitable over time, whereas a Debit (positive) balance in the Equity section, would demonstrate that the company has been unprofitable. In most companies the following accounts end-up in Credit positions: accounts payable, share capital, loans payable; while Debit accounts typically include Equipment, Inventory, Accounts Receivable. Debits must equal Credits (negatives) in each transaction; individual transactions may require multiple debit and credit entries.

Factoring (finance) financial transaction and a type of debtor finance in which a business sells its accounts receivable (i.e., invoices) to a third party (called a factor) at a discount

Factoring is a financial transaction and a type of debtor finance in which a business sells its accounts receivable to a third party at a discount. A business will sometimes factor its receivable assets to meet its present and immediate cash needs. Forfaiting is a factoring arrangement used in international trade finance by exporters who wish to sell their receivables to a forfaiter. Factoring is commonly referred to as accounts receivable factoring, invoice factoring, and sometimes accounts receivable financing. Accounts receivable financing is a term more accurately used to describe a form of asset based lending against accounts receivable. The Commercial Finance Association is the leading trade association of the asset-based lending and factoring industries.

Accounts payable money owed by a business to its suppliers

Accounts payable (AP) is money owed by a business to its suppliers shown as a liability on a company's balance sheet. It is distinct from notes payable liabilities, which are debts created by formal legal instrument documents.

A bad debt is a monetary amount owed to a creditor that is unlikely to be paid and, or which the creditor is not willing to take action to collect for various reasons, often due to the debtor not having the money to pay, for example due to a company going into liquidation or insolvency. There are various technical definitions of what constitutes a bad debt, depending on accounting conventions, regulatory treatment and the institution provisioning. In the USA, bank loans with more than ninety days' arrears become "problem loans". Accounting sources advise that the full amount of a bad debt be written off to the profit and loss account or a provision for bad debts as soon as it is foreseen.

In accountancy, days sales outstanding is a calculation used by a company to estimate the size of their outstanding accounts receivable. It measures this size not in units of currency, but in average sales days.

General ledger central repository for accounting data

A general ledger contains all the accounts for recording transactions relating to a company's assets, liabilities, owners' equity, revenue, and expenses. In modern accounting software or ERP, the general ledger works as a central repository for accounting data transferred from all subledgers or modules like accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management, fixed assets, purchasing and projects. The general ledger is the backbone of any accounting system which holds financial and non-financial data for an organization. The collection of all accounts is known as the general ledger. Each account is known as a ledger account. In a manual or non-computerized system this may be a large book.

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Chart of accounts

A chart of accounts (COA) is a created list of the accounts used by an organization to define each class of items for which money or the equivalent is spent or received. It is used to organize the finances of the entity and to segregate expenditures, revenue, assets and liabilities in order to give interested parties a better understanding of the financial health of the entity.

Debtor finance is an umbrella term used to describe a process to fund a business using its accounts receivable ledger as collateral. Generally, companies that have low working capital reserves can get into cash flow problems because invoices are paid on net 30 terms. Debtor finance solutions fund slow-paying invoices, which improves the cash flow of the company and puts it in a better position to pay operating expenses.

Credit management is the process of granting credit, setting the terms it's granted on, recovering this credit when it's due, and ensuring compliance with company credit policy, among other credit related functions. The goal within a bank or company in controlling credit is to improve revenues and profit by facilitating sales and reducing financial risks.

Ledger principal book or computer file for recording and totaling economic transactions

A ledger is the principal book or computer file for recording and totaling economic transactions measured in terms of a monetary unit of account by account type, with debits and credits in separate columns and a beginning monetary balance and ending monetary balance for each account.

In bookkeeping, accounting, and finance, Net sales are operating revenues earned by a company for selling its products or rendering its services. Also referred to as revenue, they are reported directly on the income statement as Sales or Net sales.

Special journals

Special Journals are designed to facilitate the process of journalizing and posting transactions. They are used for the most frequent transactions in a business. For example, in merchandising businesses, companies acquire merchandise from vendors, and then in turn sell the merchandise to individuals or other businesses. Sales and purchases are the most common transactions for the merchandising businesses. A business such as a retail store will record the following transactions many times a day for sales on account and cash sales.

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Financial ratio characteristic number

A financial ratio or accounting ratio is a relative magnitude of two selected numerical values taken from an enterprise's financial statements. Often used in accounting, there are many standard ratios used to try to evaluate the overall financial condition of a corporation or other organization. Financial ratios may be used by managers within a firm, by current and potential shareholders (owners) of a firm, and by a firm's creditors. Financial analysts use financial ratios to compare the strengths and weaknesses in various companies. If shares in a company are traded in a financial market, the market price of the shares is used in certain financial ratios.

Credit control is the system used by a business to make sure that it gives credit only to customers who are able to pay, and that customers pay on time. Credit control is part of the Financial controls that are employed by businesses particularly in manufacturing to ensure that once sales are made they are realised as cash or liquid resources.

A business loan is a loan specifically intended for business purposes. As with all loans, it involves the creation of a debt, which will be repaid with added interest. There are a number of different types of business loans, including bank loans, mezzanine financing, asset-based financing, invoice financing, microloans, business cash advances and cash flow loans.