Bad Debts

Bad Debts Meaning

Bad Debts can be described as unforeseen loss incurred by a business organization on account of non-fulfillment of agreed terms and conditions in between two parties either on account of sale of goods or services or repayment of any loan or other obligations as agreed under any predefined contract in between two or more parties.

Types of Bad Debt

Although there are no predefined types which any business can incur still we may classify according to different business models in the following category:-

Bad Debts Types

  • Traders – A business entity that sells and purchases goods on credit may incur bad debts in case his/ her customer didn’t oblige to predefined sets of terms and conditions of payment for the purchase of goods.
  • Service Providers  – Similar to a trader, a service provider may also incur bad debts loss in case his/ her client does not repay fees for utilizing service providers services.
  • Repayment of Loan – For a person engaged in providing loans, if a receiver didn’t repay his her dues, this will also amount to bad debts.
  • Court Order – In case of a running dispute where out of court/tribunal or any judicial authority, an order is pronounced directing one party to pay another but still if the party doesn’t repay, this will also lead to the creation of bad debts (in case no other legal remedy is available).

How to Recognize Bad Debts?

There are two methods of accounting for bad debts –

Bad Debts Methods

  1. Direct Recognition Method: – Accounted as and when incurred;
  2. Provision for Bad Debts: – Estimation of a certain amount which will be incurred as bad debts.

Examples of Bad Debts

Now let us understand the examples and their accounting effect.

You can download this Bad Debts Excel Template here – Bad Debts Excel Template

Example #1

Mark and Louis run a supermarket where goods are sold on both a cash and credit basis. During April 2019, Mark and Louis sold goods worth Rs. $ 20,00,000 to Larry trading corporation on credit period of 100 days. During May ’19 Larry trading corp was declared as an insolvency. During Sept’19, under the bankruptcy procedure, it is estimated that only 20% of the claim amount can be realized.

Based on the above data, provide the number of bad debts for Mark and Louis. Also, provide accounting treatment in books.


Based on a given set of data, the first set of accounting will be booking of sales of $20,00,000 and creating debtors in books. Next, during May, since the debtor was declared bankrupt, the full amount should be declared as bad debts. Lastly, since sept’19, it is estimated that 20% of the claim can be realized, it should again be booked as income.

Bad Debt Accounting Journal Entries are as follows: –

Example 1

Example #2

Tony trading corporation shares the following details of his debtors and realization based on past trends.

Bad Debts Example 2


Since Tony trading corp. has a predefined set of an estimate having 5% bad debts ratio, he will be maintaining provision in the same percentages-

Bad Debt Accounting Journal Entries are as follows: –

Example 2.1


Bad debts in itself do not have many advantages, but yes, its recognition ensures correct accounting treatment at the correct time. It ensures recognition of expense in a period where it is incurred and hence enabling in ensuring principles of matching concept and revenue recognition.


  • It adversely affects the net realization of any business, i.e., it reduces the number of cash proceeds.
  • It has an adverse effect on working capital as it tends to reduce net receivables.
  • If bad debts are not planned, and the organization does not create its provisions, then it tends to disturb the planning of fund management.
  • It also reduces the net worth of business as bad debts are nothing other than a loss of assets.
  • It tends to increase the cost of funds involved in the business.
  • Loss from a significant customer/ group of customers may even lead to the bankruptcy of an organization.

Important Points

  • In today’s world, there are wide changes happening in business models, which have led to the emergence of new business models. Now business entity can also ensure its debtors on the payment of nominal fees.
  • Not only insurance of debtors, but also there is an emerging business where business entities also buy other organization debtors and pay upfront or after realization from the third party. This business is commonly known as factoring.
  • With the changing applicable laws and regulations, there are wide changes in accounting, recognition, and reporting of bad debts—an organization to adhere to all the norms and regulations. E.g., changes in IFRS, GAAP provisions, etc.


It can be described as unforeseen loss incurred by a business organization on account of non-fulfillment of agreed terms and conditions between two parties. Every business organization can incur bad debts, whether it is a trading firm, service provider, banking and other lending institutions, etc.

Bad debts adversely affect any business organization since it is nothing but an unforeseen loss of working capital. In today’s world of diversified business models, factoring business has emerged as excellent debtor insurance since it provides a certainty of net realizations on the payment of certain fees.

Recommended Articles

This article has been a guide to Bad Debts and its Meaning. Here we discuss examples of bad debts along with its journal entries, advantages, disadvantages, and limitations. You can learn more about accounting from following articles –