What’s Accounts Receivable? How It Differs From Accounts Payable

Accounts Receivable: Explanation, Pros & Cons, Setup Guide


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Whether you’re running a startup or a big company, knowing about accounts receivable and accounts payable is really important. These are parts of your balance sheet and they show how well your business is doing. Think of them like two sides of the same coin – you need to keep them in balance. In this article, we’re going to talk about Accounts Receivable: what it is, how it works, and why it’s different from accounts payable. Let’s get started.

Key takeaways

  • Accounts Receivable (AR) are amounts owed to a company by customers for goods or services delivered but not yet paid for.
  • Accounts Receivable are what customers owe a company, while Accounts Payable are what the company owes to suppliers.
  • Accounts Receivable Turnover Rate is like a score that shows how quickly a company gets paid by its customers.
  • Aging schedule is a list that shows how long it has been since each sale was made on credit but not yet paid for.

What are Accounts Receivable?

Accounts Receivable (AR) are the amounts owed to a company by its customers for goods or services delivered but not yet paid for. These are recorded as a current asset on a company’s balance sheet. AR is crucial in tracking a company’s liquidity and cash flow. It represents a line of credit extended by a company, usually recoverable within a short period, which could range from a few days to a year.

What are Accounts Receivable?

Accounts Receivable vs Accounts Payable

While Accounts Receivable are what customers owe to a company, Accounts Payable (AP) are what the company owes to its suppliers or vendors. AR is an asset, indicating future cash inflows, whereas AP is a liability, representing future cash outflows. Efficient management of both is crucial for maintaining a company’s working capital and financial health.

Benefits And Risks of Accounts Receivable

Accounts Receivable (AR) are crucial in business finance, offering insights into a company’s liquidity and operational efficiency. As a current asset, they indicate a company’s ability to meet short-term obligations without needing additional cash inflows. Analysts often use metrics like the turnover ratio and days sales outstanding (DSO) to assess how efficiently a company manages its AR.

Benefits And Risks of Accounts Receivable

However, AR also carries risks. The primary concern is the potential for bad debts, where customers fail to pay, directly impacting cash flow and profitability. High AR levels can tie up significant company resources, leading to liquidity issues if not managed properly. Additionally, the administrative effort involved in managing AR adds to operational costs. Concentration risk and foreign exchange risk are other factors, especially for companies with a few large customers or those dealing in international markets.

Example of Accounts Receivable

Imagine a furniture company, named ComfyHome Furnishings, sells $5,000 worth of furniture to a customer on credit. The customer agrees to pay within 30 days. This $5,000 is recorded as Accounts Receivable in ComfyHome’s balance sheet until the customer pays.

Set Up Payment Terms for Clients

Setting up payment terms for your clients is crucial. These terms, also known as “terms of payment,” are the deadlines and interest charges given to customers to pay back what they owe. Terms can vary based on the company’s need for cash and the trust level with the client. For instance, companies in need of liquidity might offer discounts for quicker payments. The balance between liquidity and profitability is essential in determining these terms.

Set Up Payment Terms for Clients

Accounts Receivable Turnover Rate

The accounts receivable turnover rate is an important metric in assessing how efficiently a company manages its accounts receivable. It measures the frequency at which the company collects its receivables. A higher turnover rate indicates efficient collection processes, while a lower rate may signal potential issues in collecting receivables.

The formula for calculating the accounts receivable turnover rate for a one-year period is:

Accounts Receivable Turnover Rate = Net annual credit sales/Average Accounts Receivable

Aging Schedule of Accounts Receivable

An aging schedule categorizes AR based on the duration for which an invoice has been outstanding. It helps in identifying overdue accounts and assessing the risk of bad debts. Typically, it categorizes receivables into periods like 0-30 days, 31-60 days, and so on.

The Bottom Line

Accounts Receivable is more than just an entry in your financial records; it’s a crucial indicator of your business’s potential earnings and financial stability. Handling these receivables, especially when dealing with late or unreliable payments, requires expertise and can be time-consuming. This is where XOA TAX steps in. Our professional accounting and bookkeeping services are tailored to efficiently manage your accounts receivable. By identifying and addressing issues with client payments, we save your business from inefficient time spent on financial management, ensuring a smoother cash flow and a healthier financial state.


How Do I Track Accounts Receivable?

Tracking accounts receivable involves monitoring the amounts owed by customers for goods or services that have been delivered but not yet paid for. This can be done using accounting software, which automates the process and provides real-time insights. The key elements to track include the date of sale, the amount due, the due date, and the current status of each receivable. Regularly updating and reviewing this information helps in managing cash flow and identifying potential issues with late payments or defaults.

What Happens to The Accounts If Clients Never Pay?

If clients never pay, the unpaid accounts receivable eventually become bad debts. After making reasonable efforts to collect the debt and once it’s clear that the payment is unlikely, the amount is written off as a bad debt expense. This write-off is an acknowledgment that the receivable will not be collected and allows for clearer financial reporting. Bad debts impact a company’s profit and loss statement as they are recognized as an expense.

What Happens If Clients Pay Too Late?

Late payments can disrupt a company’s cash flow and financial planning. If clients consistently pay late, it may necessitate changes in the company’s credit policy, such as shortening payment terms, requiring deposits, or implementing late payment fees. Persistent late payments might also lead to stricter credit controls or even the decision to cease doing business with chronically late-paying customers. Additionally, late payments can incur interest charges or late fees, depending on the terms set by the company.

Is It Possible To Sell Or Factor Accounts Receivable?

Yes, accounts receivable can be sold or factored. This means selling these unpaid bills to another company (a factor) at a lower price. Factoring gives the company quick cash, but they get less money than the full amount of the bills. This can be a good idea for businesses that need fast money or want someone else to handle the work of collecting the money. However, it’s important to think about the cost and how it might affect relationships with customers before going for this option.

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