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How to Determine Bad Debt Expense: A Step-by-Step Guide

In the fast-paced world of B2B transactions, maintaining a healthy cash flow is crucial for the stability and growth of your business. However, not all sales result in collected revenue.

Some customers may fail to pay their invoices, leading to bad debt - a reality that every company must face. Accurately determining bad debt expense is essential for providing a realistic view of your financial health and ensuring compliance with accounting standards.

Let's go through how to determine bad debt expense.

Understanding Bad Debt Expense

Bad debt expense represents the cost of accounts receivable that your company does not expect to collect.

In a B2B context, where transactions often involve substantial sums and extended credit terms, accurately estimating bad debt expense is crucial for maintaining financial health. It ensures that a company's financial statements reflect a realistic view of its profitability and liquidity.

Bad debt can arise for various reasons. It could be because of customers' financial difficulties, bankruptcy, or simply an inability to fulfill payment obligations. For B2B companies, the risk of bad debt is often higher due to the larger credit amounts extended compared to B2C transactions.

It's vital for these companies to implement robust credit management practices and regularly assess the collectibility of their receivables.

Calculating Bad Debt Expense

Calculating bad debt expense is a critical step in financial management for business owners. It involves estimating the parts of accounts receivable that are unlikely to be collected and recording this amount as an expense in the financial statements.

This process ensures that the company's financial health is accurately portrayed, reflecting potential losses from uncollectible accounts.

Bad Debt Accounting Methods

One common method for calculating bad debt expense is the percentage of sales method. This approach involves applying a predetermined percentage to the total credit sales for the period.

The percentage is usually based on historical data and industry averages, reflecting the company's past experience with uncollectible accounts. For example, if a company determines that 2% of its credit sales typically become uncollectible, it would calculate bad debt expense by multiplying total credit sales by 2%.

Aging of Accounts Receivable Method

Another widely used approach is the aging of accounts receivable method. This method provides a more detailed analysis by applying different percentages of uncollectibility to accounts receivable based on their age.

Receivables are grouped into categories (usually by groups of days), with older receivables generally having a higher likelihood of becoming bad debt.

By applying varying percentages to each category, companies can estimate bad debt more precisely. For instance, receivables in the 0-30 days category might have an uncollectibility rate of 1%, while those over 90 days might have a rate of 20%.

Financial Health Assessment Tips

Assessing the financial health of a B2B company is vital for maintaining stability and ensuring informed decision-making. Regularly evaluating financial health helps identify potential risks, optimize cash flow, and helps with your overall business performance.

Start by analyzing key financial statements.  Examine the balance sheet to assess the company's assets, liabilities, and equity.

Pay particular attention to accounts receivable and the allowance for doubtful accounts to understand the potential impact of bad debts on the company's financial position. That can help you with your estimation of bad debts.

Look at your credit policies regularly. Review and update credit policies to ensure they align with the company's risk tolerance and market conditions. Establish clear credit terms and conduct thorough credit checks on new customers to mitigate credit risk.

Prepare regular cash flow forecasts to predict future cash inflows and outflows. This helps plan for potential shortfalls and ensure sufficient liquidity to meet obligations. 

Optimize working capital by managing inventory levels, accounts receivable, and accounts payable efficiently. Effective working capital management improves cash flow and reduces the need for external financing.

You'll need to keep on top of different world financial conditions. Look at important economic indicators such as interest rates, inflation, and GDP growth. These things can majorly impact any company's financial performance and customer payment behaviors. 

Stay updated on industry trends and developments. Understanding market dynamics helps make strategic decisions and anticipate potential challenges.

Know Your Ratios

Calculating and monitoring financial ratios provides insights into various aspects of financial health. That can be helpful before you work with different companies.

Look at liquidity ratios. Ratios like the current ratio and quick ratio help assess the company's ability to meet short-term obligations. A higher ratio indicates better liquidity and financial flexibility.

Use ratios such as the gross profit margin, net profit margin, and return on equity to gauge the company's profitability and efficiency.

Evaluate leverage ratios such as the debt-to-equity ratio to understand the company's financial leverage and risk. A lower ratio suggests a healthier balance between debt and equity, reducing financial risk.

Trade Credit Insurance

You can invest in trade credit insurance, to protect yourself from bad debts. Trade credit insurance can enhance a company's cash flow management. With the assurance that receivables are protected, companies can maintain a steadier cash flow, even if some customers fail to pay on time.

This reliability in cash inflows helps in meeting operational expenses, investing in growth opportunities, and reducing the need for additional financing.

Trade credit insurance offers a safeguard against economic uncertainty and market volatility. In times of economic downturn or industry-specific challenges, the risk of customer defaults typically increases.

With trade credit insurance, companies can confidently extend more credit to new and existing customers. That helps with sales growth.

This increased confidence can also enable companies to explore new markets and customer segments that they might have previously considered too risky. The ability to safely extend credit can be a significant competitive advantage, fostering business expansion and revenue growth.

How to Determine Bad Debt Expense: Start Today

How to determine bad debt expense? There's a lot to manage. You should be able to use this guide to get back on the right track.

Do you need trade credit insurance? ARI Global is here for you. We've helped businesses in over twenty markets over the past two decades. That's why we're consistently recognized as an industry leader.

Get a quote from us today.