Accounts receivable

What you are owed

Unit 13

What is an invoice?

Many business offer, or are obliged to offer, credit terms to their customers. Sales invoices are raised and sent to the customer but the expectation is that they will not be paid for a period of time. This period, often known as Terms of Trade, can vary significantly from zero to 180+ days. The value of the amounts remaining unpaid at any time are commonly known as Accounts Receivable or Trade Debtors and the period taken on credit as debtor days or days sales outstanding (DSO).

Accounts receivable values will be found on a balance sheet in the Current Assets section. They are current in that normally the amounts will be received in a relatively short time period.

The management of Accounts Receivable is often critical to managing cash flow and therefore success of the business, so good processes are vital.

It is good practice is to:

  • Ensure that Sales Invoices are accurately prepared, addressed and sent to the correct person
  • Make sure that Terms of Trade have been agreed and are specified on the Invoice or another document sent to the customer
  • Make it easy for your customer to pay you by having a remittance advice attached to the Invoice
  • Regularly review your aged debtor analysis
  • Actively chase payment when overdue
  • Use statement documents to remind customers of the situation
  • Above all commit sufficient resources and time to make sure cash from your customers flows in

When credit terms are offered to customers than in accounting terms we have created an asset for the funds to be received in the future. For example the equations for a £1000 sales invoice on credit would be:

unit-14-1 unit-14-2

When eventually the invoice is paid by the customer the asset type would move from being an amount receivable to an amount in the bank account but still an asset.

Is it still receivable?

These days unfortunately it is all too common for a customer who was thought to be capable of paying what they owe now not being able to. If nothing is done then the amount they owe will sit on the balance sheet as an asset that in reality does not exist.
It is good practice to regularly review the accounts receivable with a realistic eye and write-off, as a bad debt, any amounts that will not be received.

Most good accounting packages will provide users with reports to help manage the accounts receivable, with reports showing outstanding amounts, the ability to send statements to customers and an analysis of how old (in terms of average days unpaid) outstanding invoices are. This is known as an aged debtors report.

Sales Invoices

Prepare sales invoices as accurately as possible to avoid any arguments that will delay your customer from paying on the agreed date.
If the business is VAT registered then sales invoices must be in compliant form with compliant information including the VAT Registration Number. Consult a professional advisor if necessary.

Journal end flourish


August 2023
The importance of budgeting

Are you a small business or charity? Discover why you need a budget to thrive and make lasting change. Learn the essentials now!

Updated August 2023
Receipts & payments vs accrual accounting

Charities with a gross income below £250,000 and who are not registered as a company have the option of preparing receipts and payments accounts, as long as their governing document does not require their charity's annual accounts to be prepared as accruals accounts.

Updated August 2023
Simplify employee cost allocation

Employee cost allocation is the process of distributing staff costs across various aspects of a business. This helps in understanding how employees are used in different projects, allowing for accurate budgeting, enabling full costing for projects and better management control.