Accounting for Doubtful Debts

Allowance for doubtful debts is created by forming a credit balance which is netted off against the total receivables appearing in the balance sheet. A corresponding debit entry is recorded to account for the expense of the potential loss. Accounting entry to record the allowance for receivable is as follows:

DebitAllowance for Doubtful Debts (Expense)
CreditAllowance for Doubtful Debts (Balance Sheet)

Once an allowance for doubtful debts has been created, only the movement in the allowance will need to be charged to the income statement in future accounting period. So if estimated allowance for doubtful debt is same as last accounting period, no accounting entry will be required in the current period as the total receivables will be reduced by the amount of allowance which has already been created.


ABC LTD has trade receivable of worth $50,000 as at 31 December 2010. XYZ LTD, a receivable owing $10,000 to ABC LTD at the year end, has been recently been wound up. Consequently, ABC LTD does not expect to recover the amount due from XYZ LTD. Based on past experience, ABC LTD estimates that 5% of its receivables will default. Allowance for doubtful debts on 31 December 2009 was $1500.

ABC LTD must write off the $10,000 receivable from XYZ LTD as bad debt. Accounting entry to record the bad debt will be as follows:

DebitBad Debt Expense$10,000
CreditXYZ LTD (Receivable)$10,000

A general allowance of $2,000 [( 50,000-10,000) x 5%] must be made. As a general allowance of $1500 has already been created, only $500 additional allowance must be charged to the income statement:

DebitAllowance for Doubtful Debts (Expense)$500
CreditAllowance for Doubtful Debts (Balance Sheet)$500

Note that $10,000 in respect of receivable from XYZ LTD has been excluded from the calculation of the general allowance as it has already been written off in full.

Bad Debt Expense
XYZ LTD (Receivable)10,000Income Statement10,000

XYZ LTD Receivable
Sales10,000Bad Debt Expense10,000

Allowance for Doubtful Debts
Balance c/d2,000Balance c/d1,500
Income Statement500