How to Use the Aging of Accounts Receivable Method for Bad Debts


Under the Aging of Accounts Receivable Method for accounting for bad debts, a company creates an estimate of bad debts based on the age of outstanding invoices. This estimate is based on a company’s Aging of Accounts Receivable report. An Accounts Receivable Aging Report separates outstanding invoices into columns based on the age of the invoices.

Here is an example of an Accounts Receivable Aging Report:

Accounts Receivable Aging
January 20xxCurrentPast Due
Customer1 – 30 Days31- 60 Days61 – 90 Days90 + Days
ABC Co3000
DEF Inc100005000
GHI Ltd5002000
JKL Inc5002500470010000
Total Due110007500670013000
A table showing an example of an Accounts Receivable Aging Report

A company uses the Accounts Receivable Aging Report to determine the amount of the estimate for Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. A percentage is applied to each column based on the company’s previous experience with bad debts. More recent invoices have a lower chance of becoming bad debts. Older invoices have a higher chance of becoming bad debts. The percentages are applied to each column to determine the total estimate for the current month.

Here’s an example of applying percentages to the Accounts Receivable Aging Report:

Accounts Receivable Aging
January 20xxNot Past DuePast Due
Customer1 – 30 Days31- 60 Days61 – 90 Days90 + DaysTotal
ABC Co3000
DEF Inc100005000
GHI Ltd5002000
JKL Inc5002500470010000
Total Due11000750067001300038,200
Estimated Percent Uncollectible1%3%10%30%
Uncollectible Accounts Estimate11022567039004905
A table showing applying percentages to the Accounts Receivable Aging Report to determine the estimate for Allowance for Doubtful Accounts.

What is the Journal Entry for Aging of Accounts Receivable Method?

Under the Aging of Accounts Receivable Method, the estimate is updated at the end of each accounting period so it is based on the most recent Accounts Receivable Aging Report. Because the balance in Accounts Receivable is changing regularly as new invoices are created and other invoices are paid, the amount in the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts will always be adjusted to change the balance to the desired amount based on the newest information.

What is the Journal Entry if the Balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is Zero?

If the balance in the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is zero, in the case above, the journal entry recorded to bring the account to its desired balance is:

Bad Debts Expense4,905
Allowance for Doubtful Accounts4,905
Journal Entry to record Allowance for Doubtful Accounts under the Aging of Accounts Receivable Method when the account has a zero balance.

When this entry is posted in the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts account, the balance will now be a credit balance of $4,905–the desired balance.

On the Balance Sheet, the Net Realizable Value of Accounts Receivable shows the true value of Accounts Receivable by using the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts to track that value.

Accounts Receivable$38,200
Less Allowance for Doubtful Accounts (4,905)
Net Realizable Value$33,295
Table showing Accounts Receivable portion of a Balance Sheet

What is the Journal Entry if the Balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a Credit?

If the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts has a balance from the previous month, the journal entry will be done for the difference between the current balance and the desired balance.

If the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts has a current credit balance of $4,000 and the desired balance is $4,905, a journal entry is done for the difference. $4,905 – $4,000 = $905. In the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts, the balance is now $4,000 + $950 = $4,905 (the desired balance.)

On the Balance Sheet, we can see that the desired balance of $4,905 is reflected in the new balance of the account.

Accounts Receivable$38,200
Less Allowance for Doubtful Accounts (4,905)
Net Realizable Value$33,295
Table showing Accounts Receivable portion of a Balance Sheet

What is the Journal Entry if the Balance in Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a Debit?

If the balance in the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts is a debit balance, adjust the balance of the account by doing a journal entry to bring the balance to the desired balance. If the account has a current debit balance of $100 and the desired balance is a credit balance of $4,905, the balance needs to be credited by $100 to bring the debit balance to zero, and then credited by $4,905 to increase the balance to the desired balance, a total of $5,005:

Bad Debts Expense5,505
Allowance for Doubtful Accounts5,505
Journal Entry to record Allowance for Doubtful Accounts under the Aging of Accounts Receivable Method when the account has a debit balance.

When the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts account has a debit balance, it means that the original estimate did not match up with the reality of what happened with Bad Debts. Because it was an estimate, we can simply make a journal entry to true up the account. When making an adjustment to the account when it has a debit balance, take the balance and add it to the desired balance to determine the journal entry amount.

On the balance sheet, the Allowance account will reflect the desired balance once the account balance is updated with the journal entry.

Accounts Receivable$38,200
Less Allowance for Doubtful Accounts (4,905)
Net Realizable Value$33,295
Table showing Accounts Receivable portion of a Balance Sheet

How to Write-off Bad Debts Using the Aging of Accounts Receivable Allowance Method

When a specific account is determined to be uncollectible, a company will write-off the amount using a journal entry:

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts500
Accounts Receivable–XYZ Co.500
Journal Entry to record an identified bad debt under the Aging of Accounts Receivable Allowance Method.

At the end of the month, a new Aging of Accounts Receivable estimate will be calculated as before and the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts will be updated again to reflect the desired balance.

Caroline Grimm

Caroline Grimm is an accounting educator and a small business enthusiast. She holds Masters and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration. She is the author of 11 books and the creator of Accounting How To YouTube channel and blog. For more information visit: https://accountinghowto.com/about/

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