Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Allowance for Bad Debt


Allowance for Bad Debt, also known as Allowance for Doubtful Accounts, is an accounting concept that represents the estimated amount of receivables that a company may not be able to collect. It is essentially a provision set aside to cover potential losses from defaulting customers. This is deducted from the total receivables to show the amount that is realistically expected to be collected.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Allowance for Bad Debt” is:Allowance – əˈlaʊənsfor – fɔːr Bad – bædDebt – dɛt Put them together for:əˈlaʊəns fɔːr bæd dɛt

Key Takeaways

Here are three main takeaways about Allowance for Bad Debt:

  1. Protection Against Uncollectible Accounts: Allowance for Bad Debt is an excellent tool for businesses to protect themselves against uncollectible accounts. It provides a buffer for companies by setting aside a specific amount of money, which acts as a cushion when customers fail to pay their debts.
  2. Importance for Financial Statements: Allowance for Bad Debt affects a company’s financial statements. By creating an allowance, the liability aspect of the Balance Sheet and the expense aspect of the Income Statement are both taken into account, ensuring that the financial statements reflect a more accurate picture of the company’s financial health.
  3. Estimation Process: The process of determining the Allowance for Bad Debt is based on estimations. Businesses typically use past data on bad debts to estimate the proportion of their accounts receivable that will likely remain unpaid. Therefore, the estimation process requires an understanding of historical trends, judgement, and careful analysis.


The allowance for bad debt is an important business/finance term as it represents an estimation of the amount of receivables that a company or business may not be able to collect from its customers. This provision is crucial for both financial reporting and tax purposes. It allows a business to accurately reflect its financial strength by reducing the apparent value of its assets (specifically, accounts receivable) to a more realistic, collectible amount. This figure also provides investors and creditors an honest view of the company’s financial standing, as well as enabling it to effectively manage credit risks. Overall, setting aside an allowance for bad debt helps safeguard a company’s financial health.


The primary purpose of the Allowance for Bad Debt is to provide an estimated cushion against potential losses from customers who may fail to meet their payment obligations. This accounting procedure is a preemptive measure taken by a company to safeguard its financial health. In essence, it is a contra-asset account that counteracts, or runs opposite to, a company’s accounts receivables. An accurately estimated Allowance for Bad Debt helps the company in presenting a more realistic financial portrait by reflecting the net amounts the business is expected to collect. In doing so, this allowance effectively adjusts the value of accounts receivable to a more probable, realistically collectible sum.Acquiring an Allowance for Bad Debt is also useful for adhering to the principles of conservatism in accounting practices. It ensures that probable losses are recorded in the company’s books of accounts as soon as they are foreseen, instead of when they actually occur. This promotes transparency, aiding potential investors, creditors, and stakeholders in making informed decisions. Furthermore, this provision allows the company to plan its tax payments effectively, since businesses can usually deduct debts that become uncollectable. Thus, an Allowance for Bad Debts ensures financial reliability, enhances the scrutiny of credit policies, and signals responsible fiscal management.


1. Retail Store: Imagine a company like Best Buy. This company offers electronics on credit to its clients and makes its revenue largely from these credit sales. However, not all customers will pay their credit on time, or at all. Over years of operation, Best Buy has found that on average, 1.5% of its credit sales become uncollectable. To account for this, it would create an allowance for bad debts in its annual financial statements. If Best Buy made $1,000,000 in credit sales in a particular year, their specific allowance for bad debts would be $15,000 (1.5% of $1,000,000).2. Credit Card Company: Credit card companies, like Visa or MasterCard, make money by providing clients with credit. However, there will always be a portion of debtors who default on their payments. To account for this, the credit card company will create an allowance for bad debts based on historic default rates. For instance, if historically 3% of their issued credit is not repaid, and they have issued $500,000,000 in credit during a fiscal year, the allowance for bad debts in the financial statement would be $15,000,000 (3% of $500,000,000).3. Medical Services Business: Consider a large hospital or medical service provider that bills its services to insurance companies and individual patients. There is often a considerable delay in receiving these payments and, in some cases, receivables are never paid. For example, if a hospital’s historical data shows that 5% of their billed services go unpaid, and they have billed services amounting to $200,000,000 over the course of a year, their allowance for bad debts will be $10,000,000 (5% of $200,000,000). This allowance is included in their annual financial statement to give a more accurate picture of expected revenue.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Allowance for Bad Debt?

The Allowance for Bad Debt is an estimation of the amount of a company’s receivables that may ultimately be uncollectible. It is also known as an allowance for doubtful accounts.

How is the Allowance for Bad Debt accounted for in financial statements?

The Allowance for Bad Debt is reported as a contra asset, reducing the amount of total receivables reported on the balance sheet.

When should a company recognize Allowance for Bad Debt?

This allowance should be recognized as soon as the account receivable is reported, following the matching principle, which ensures that revenues and their related expenses are recognized within the same accounting period.

How is the Allowance for Bad Debt calculated?

The Allowance for Bad Debt can be determined based on a company’s past experience with bad debts, industry averages, or a review of individual customers’ ability to pay.

What happens if an account is written off as uncollectible?

An account that is written off as uncollectible reduces the Allowance for Bad Debts. But, if the account is later collected, both the allowance and the receivable are increased.

What is the effect of Allowance for Bad Debt on a company’s income statement?

The estimated bad debt expense is recorded in the income statement, reducing the company’s net income.

How can a company minimize their Allowance for Bad Debt?

Companies can minimize their allowance by implementing strict credit policies, performing customer credit checks and engaging efficient collection strategies when receivables become overdue.

How does the Allowance for Bad Debt impact a company’s profitability ratios?

By reducing the total receivables reported on the balance sheet, the allowance for bad debts can lower a company’s profitability ratios, such as the return on assets ratio.

Related Finance Terms

  • Accounts Receivable
  • Bad Debt Expense
  • Credit Losses
  • Provision for Doubtful Accounts
  • Write-offs

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More