Definition of direct write-off method in Accounting

financial reporting
journal entry

The company estimated 20% of the credit sales as an uncollectible expense. Despite these different methods of calculation of estimated uncollectible expense amount the method of recording them in journal entries are the same. Bad debts can be deducted from the total taxable income while filing the annual tax returns. The IRS mandates that small businesses compute their deductions using the direct write-off technique. For example, a shop sells semiconductor parts to customers on credit.

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Companies should also note that the direct write-off method is inconsistent with matching principles. In the direct write-off method, a bad debt is reported only when it is written off from the customer’s account. Let’s say a company sells $5,000 of raw metal to one of its customers on credit in May, part of the second quarter period. In October, it becomes obvious that the customer is only going to be able to pay $4,000, and the remaining $1,000 becomes bad debt.

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For accountants, the direct write-off method is an important part of their day-to-day work. They have to keep an eye on the balances of the accounts receivable and figure out which debts are unlikely to be paid back. This method is related to accounting because it has a direct effect on the financial statements and overall health of a business.

In other words, it can be said that whenever a receivable is considered to be unrecoverable, this method fully allows them to book those receivables as an expense without using an allowance account. The direct write-off method is used only when we decide a customer will not pay. We do not record any estimates or use the Allowance for Doubtful Accounts under the direct write-off method. We record Bad Debt Expense for the amount we determine will not be paid. This method violates the GAAP matching principle of revenues and expenses recorded in the same period. Under the direct write off method, when a small business determines an invoice is uncollectible they can debit the Bad Debts Expense account and credit Accounts Receivable immediately.

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The direct written-off method is an element of bad debt expenses. Hence, the amount is treated as an expense account and not as an allowance account in the financial statements. This a simple and the most convenient method of recording bad debts; however, it has a major drawback. This violates the matching principle of accounting because it recognizes bad debt expense which may be related to the previous accounting period. This is evident from the above example where the credit sale takes place in 2016, and the bad debt is discovered in 2017. If the following accounting period results in net sales of $80,000, an additional $2,400 is reported in the allowance for doubtful accounts, and $2,400 is recorded in the second period in bad debt expense.

What is the direct write off method?

When the firm makes the bad debts adjusting entry, it does not know which specific accounts will become uncollectible. Thus, the company cannot enter credits in either the Accounts Receivable control account or the customers’ accounts receivable subsidiary ledger accounts. If only one or the other were credited, the Accounts Receivable control account balance would not agree with the total of the balances in the accounts receivable subsidiary ledger.

This is beneficial for the organization as it helps to reduce tax payments. The aging method groups all outstanding accounts receivable by age, and specific percentages are applied to each group. The aggregate of all groups’ results is the estimated uncollectible amount. For example, a company has $70,000 of accounts receivable less than 30 days outstanding and $30,000 of accounts receivable more than 30 days outstanding. Because no significant period of time has passed since the sale, a company does not know which exact accounts receivable will be paid and which will default.

Valuing Accounts Receivable

Depreciation is an expense that reflects the cost of uncollectible receivables. Liability accounts include accounts payable, unearned revenues, and notes payable. If a trial balance is in balance, it means there are no errors within the accounting records. Confirmation of accounts receivable by direct communication with the debtor tests the existence of accounts receivable. Explain how to write off an uncollectible account using both the direct write-off and the allowance method. Reversing a write-off can be complicated and require significant effort, especially if the original bad debt was incorrectly identified.

allowance methods

You own a car auto shop and install a new engine in a customer’s car for $3,000. After attempting to contact the customer for the invoice of $3,000, you have yet to hear back for months. After this time, you deem it uncollectible and record it as a bad debt.

If you’re wondering which method is best for your small business, speak with a professional for insights into your specific situation. The percentage of sales method simply takes the total sales for the period and multiplies that number by a percentage. Once again, the percentage is an estimate based on the company’s previous ability to collect receivables. The accounts receivable aging method groups receivable accounts based on age and assigns a percentage based on the likelihood to collect.

Do Gains & Losses Have to Be Recognized Before Appearing on an Income Statement?

How do companies know that their customers are going to pay their bills? The method of estimating uncollectible accounts expense based on the accounts receivable balance emphasizes the determination of the net realizable value of the receivables. The direct write-off method can lead to a lack of consistency in recognizing bad debt expenses as the timing of write-offs is subject to subjective judgment. This can cause big changes in bad debt costs from one period to the next, making it hard to compare how well a company has done financially over time. The direct write-off method allows companies to write off bad debts promptly.

To compensate for this problem, accountants have developed “allowance methods” to account for uncollectible accounts. Importantly, an allowance method must be used except in those cases where bad debts are not material (and for tax purposes where tax rules often stipulate that a direct write-off approach is to be used). As will soon be shown, the actual write-off in a subsequent period will generally not impact income. Under the direct write-off method, the expense is known as a bad debt.

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As mentioned above, the use of the direct write-off method violates the matching principle. This is because according to the matching principle, expenses need to be reported in the same period in which they were incurred. With the direct write-off method, however, bad expenses might not be realized to be bad expenses until the following period. For example, if you made a sale at the end of one accounting period ending in December, you might not realize the bad debts until the beginning of March. A direct write-off often happens in a different year than when the sale was made, or in other words, the revenue was recorded by your business.

What happens when a fte meaning doesn’t pay for products or services? The business is left out of pocket with “bad debt” to balance in the books. The direct write off method offers a way to deal with this for accounting purposes, but it comes with some pros and cons. The main advantage of the Direct Write-off method is that it is straightforward to book and record in books of accounts. Companies only have to pass two journal entries for the amount of the customer’s bad debt.

So, an allowance for doubtful accounts is established based on an anticipated, estimated figure. Because the company may not actually receive all accounts receivable amounts, Accounting rules requires a company to estimate the amount it may not be able to collect. This amount must then be recorded as a reduction against net income because, even though revenue had been booked, it never materialized into cash. Recording bad debts through the direct write-off method affects only the bottom line of income in the current period. AccountDebitCreditCash$20,000Accounts Receivable$20,000It’s important to note that unpaid invoices are a part of the accounts receivable balance.

Accounts receivable is a control account that must have the same balance as the combined balance of every individual account in the accounts receivable subsidiary ledger. The direct write off method involves charging bad debts to expense only when individual invoices have been identified as uncollectible. The direct write-off method is used in the U.S. for income tax purposes. The matching principle requires that expenses be matched to related revenues in the same accounting period in which the revenue transaction occurs. Is the amount the company expects to collect from accounts receivable.

Harold Averkamp has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. He is the sole author of all the materials on The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. The allowance method is the more generally accepted method due to the direct write-off method’s limitations.


We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy. Thousands of business owners trust Akounto for managing their accounts. Smith’s payment history, the account’s activity will show the eventual collection of the amount owed. All adjusting journal entries use an Income Statement and a Balance Sheet account. Technology reduces errors and simplifies reconciliation tasks significantly.

Direct Write-Off Method vs. Allowance Method

You’ll need to decide how you want to record this uncollectible money in your bookkeeping practices. The receivable line item in the balance sheet tends to be lower under the allowance method since a reserve is being netted against the receivable amount. In the direct write-off method example above, what happens if the client ends up paying later on?

  • The matching principle states that expenses must be recorded when revenue is earned, but under the direct write-off, method expenses are recorded in the future months.
  • On a business’s income statement we will increase our sales or sales revenue.
  • It is a method of removing the expected amount from the books account for which provisions have not been made earlier.
  • The direct write-off method involves writing off a bad debt expense directly against the corresponding receivable account.

A business can write off a debt at any time, but the timing of when a debt is written off will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Sometimes, a business may wait to write off a debt until it has exhausted all other collection efforts. The GoCardless content team comprises a group of subject-matter experts in multiple fields from across GoCardless. The authors and reviewers work in the sales, marketing, legal, and finance departments. All have in-depth knowledge and experience in various aspects of payment scheme technology and the operating rules applicable to each. The matching principle states that any transaction that affects one account needs to affect another account during that same period.


The direct write-off method is simpler than the allowance method in that it allows for one simple entry to reduce accounts receivable to its net realizable value. Understanding the account’s financial impact will help you make better business decisions. The Direct Write-Off Method is a simple way for a company to record accounts that can’t be paid back. Even though it might not be the most accurate way to collect data, it is a quick solution for small businesses and startups that don’t have the money or people to do more in-depth collection work. This direct write-off method shows that the company has recognized the uncollectible account as a loss and will not attempt to collect the debt any further.

It gives business owners a clear, concise way to track and manage their uncollectible accounts. A violation of accounting principles means that the financial statements are not portraying an accurate and fair view of the business. Small companies and individuals generally follow this accounting method.

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