Assume further that the company’s past history and other relevant information indicate to officials that approximately 7 percent of all credit sales will prove to be uncollectible. An expense of $7,000 (7 percent of $100,000) is anticipated because only $93,000 in cash is expected from these receivables rather than the full $100,000. The specific identity and the actual amount of these bad accounts will probably not be known for several months. No physical evidence exists at the time of sale to indicate which will become worthless (buyers rarely make a purchase and then immediately declare bankruptcy or leave town). For convenience, accountants wait until financial statements are to be produced before making their estimation of net realizable value. The necessary reduction is then recorded by means of an adjusting entry. Question: This company holds $100,000 in accounts receivable but only expects to collect $93,000 based on the available evidence. The $7,000 reduction in the asset is an expense. When should the expense be recognized? These sales were made in Year One but the identity of the specific customers who fail to pay and the exact amounts to be removed will not be determined until Year Two. Should bad debt expense be recognized in the same year as the sales by relying on an estimate or delayed until the actual results are eventually finalized?
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Where possible, expenses are recorded in the same period as the revenues they helped generate. That guidance is clear. Thus, every company should handle uncollectible accounts in the same manner. The expected expense is the result of making sales to customers who ultimately will never pay. Because the revenue was reported at the time of sale in Year One, the related expense must also be recognized in that year. This handling is appropriate according to accrual accounting even though the $7,000 is only an estimated figure. Based on U.S., when the company produces financial statements at the end of Year One, an adjusting entry is made to (1) reduce the receivables balance to its net realizable value and (2) recognize an expense in the same period as the related revenue.
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