Under the Allowance Method

Under the Allowance Method: A Comprehensive Guide


The allowance method is a widely used accounting method for estimating and recording bad debts. It is mainly employed by businesses that offer credit terms to their customers. This method allows companies to anticipate the potential losses arising from customers who fail to pay their outstanding debts.

Understanding the Allowance Method:

The allowance method revolves around the concept of creating an allowance for doubtful accounts. This allowance is an estimated amount that a company sets aside to cover potential bad debts. By doing so, the company acknowledges the possibility that not all customers will pay their debts in full.

The Steps Involved:

The allowance method follows a series of steps to ensure accurate estimation and recording of bad debts:

1. Estimating Bad Debts: Companies determine the amount of bad debts by analyzing historical data, economic trends, and industry benchmarks. This estimation is usually expressed as a percentage of outstanding accounts receivable.

2. Creating the Allowance Account: Once the bad debts are estimated, the company creates an allowance account in the balance sheet. The allowance account is a contra-asset account that reduces the total accounts receivable.

3. Recording Bad Debts: When a customer’s account becomes uncollectible, the company debits the allowance account and credits the accounts receivable. This write-off reduces the accounts receivable and the allowance account by an equal amount.

4. Adjusting the Allowance Account: At the end of each accounting period, the company reviews the allowance for doubtful accounts and adjusts it accordingly. If the estimated bad debts were too high or too low, the allowance account is adjusted to reflect the correct amount.

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Benefits of the Allowance Method:

The allowance method offers several benefits for businesses:

1. Accurate Financial Reporting: By using the allowance method, companies can present a more accurate picture of their financial position. The estimation of bad debts ensures that the balance sheet reflects the net realizable value of accounts receivable.

2. Transparency: The allowance method provides transparency to stakeholders, such as investors and creditors, by disclosing the potential risks associated with outstanding debts.

3. Compliance with Accounting Standards: The allowance method is in line with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), ensuring compliance with accounting regulations.


Q: Can the allowance method be used for all types of businesses?
A: Yes, the allowance method can be used by any business that extends credit to its customers.

Q: How is the allowance for doubtful accounts estimated?
A: The estimation is based on historical data, industry benchmarks, economic conditions, and the company’s own experience with collecting outstanding debts.

Q: What is the impact of adjusting the allowance account?
A: Adjusting the allowance account ensures that the financial statements accurately represent the estimated bad debts, resulting in a more realistic financial position.

Q: Can the allowance for doubtful accounts be changed during the accounting period?
A: No, the allowance for doubtful accounts should only be adjusted at the end of each accounting period during the closing process.

Q: How does the allowance method affect the income statement?
A: The allowance method does not directly impact the income statement. Instead, it affects the balance sheet by reducing the accounts receivable and increasing the allowance for doubtful accounts.

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The allowance method is a crucial tool for businesses to estimate and record bad debts accurately. By creating an allowance for doubtful accounts, companies can anticipate potential losses and present a more realistic financial position. This method ensures transparency, compliance with accounting standards, and accurate financial reporting. Understanding the allowance method is essential for businesses that offer credit terms to their customers.