Bad debt expense is estimated and recorded in the period of sale to correspond with the matching principle. Subsequent write-offs of specific accounts do not affect the expense further. Rather, both the asset and the allowance for doubtful accounts are decreased at that time. If a written off account is subsequently collected, the allowance account is increased to reverse the previous impact. Estimation errors are to be anticipated; perfect predictions are rarely possible. When the amount of uncollectible accounts differs from the original figure recognized, no retroactive adjustment is made if a reasonable estimation was made. Decisions have already been made by investors and creditors based on the original data and cannot be reversed. These readers of the statements should have understood that the information could not possibly reflect exact amounts. [1] Many companies combine these two entries for convenience. The debit to accounts receivable in the first entry exactly offsets the credit in the second. Thus, the same recording impact is achieved by simply debiting cash and crediting the allowance for doubtful accounts. However, the rationale for that single entry is not always as evident to a beginning student. [2] As will be discussed in subsequent chapters, previously issued financial statements are restated if found to contain material misstatements or in a few other specific circumstances.
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The $3,000 debit figure is assumed here for convenience to be solely the result of underestimating uncollectible accounts in Year One. Several other factors may also be present. For example, the balance in the allowance for doubtful accounts will be impacted by credit sales made in the current year that are discovered to be worthless before the end of the period. Such accounts reduce the allowance T-account prior to the recognition of an expense. The residual allowance balance is also affected by the collection of accounts that were written off as worthless in an earlier year. As described earlier, the allowance is actually increased by that event. However, the financial reporting is not altered by the actual cause of the final allowance figure.
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