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contra account definition

The article Trial Balance explains how account balances transfer to financial statements at the end of an accounting period. In some cases, the seller may carry customers as accounting systems accounts Banks, for instance, refer to depositor customers as Liability accounts. In business, fixed assets are often called “property, plant and equipment” (PP&E). That is because most fixed assets are items that have been bought to serve a business purpose. Typical examples of PP&E include land, buildings, vehicles, machinery and IT equipment.

A contra account is an account that records events like adjustments and transactions that are having an opposite effect on a relating account’s true value on the firm’s financial statements. If we record those events within the relating account, we risk losing information that is relevant to analyzing performance. This type of account can equalize balances in the asset account that it is paired with on a business’s balance sheet. The contra asset account has credited balances that can reduce the balance in its paired asset account. Allowance for doubtful accounts is a contra asset account used to create an allowance for customers that are not expected to pay the money owed for purchased goods or services. The allowance for doubtful accounts appears on the balance sheet and reduces the amount of receivables. The Balance sheet example running throughout the Business Encyclopedia has several contra account examples.

contra account definition

Now let’s focus our attention on the two most common contra assets – accumulated depreciation and allowance for doubtful accounts. Contra Equity Account – A contra equity account has a debit balance and decreases a standard equity account. Treasure stock is a good example as it carries a debit balance and decreases the overall stockholders’ equity. The net amount is often referred to as the carrying amount or perhaps the net realizable amount.

Contra accounts appear in the financial statements directly below their paired accounts. Sometimes the balances in the two accounts are merged for presentation purposes, so that only a net amount is presented. If the related account is an asset account, then a contra asset account is used to offset it with a credit balance. If the related account is a liability account, then a contra liability account is used to offset it with a debit balance. Thus, the natural balance of a contra account is always the opposite of the account with which it is paired. The two common contra liability accounts, discount on bonds payable and discount on notes payable, carry normal debit balances.


Conta revenue account examples include sales returns, sales allowance, and discounts. Although you may be familiar with the normal balance requirements of each classification, a contra account will have the opposite requirement. The book value of an asset is the value of the asset recorded in the company’s balance sheet. Contra accounts are needed for determining the book value of assets held by a company. For accounting purposes, the book value is realized by the difference between the asset’s account balance and contra account balance. Contra accounts play a major role in estimating the book value of an asset. Contra RevenueContra revenue refers to any difference between a company’s gross sales and net sales due to sales returns, allowances or discount.

The contra revenue accounts commonly used in small-business accounting include sales returns, sales allowance and sale discounts. A contra revenue account carries a debit balance and reduces the total amount of a company’s revenue. The amount of gross revenue minus the amount recorded in the contra revenue accounts equal a company’s net revenue. A regular asset account typically carries a debit balance, so a contra asset account carries a credit balance. Two common contra asset accounts include allowance for doubtful accounts and accumulated depreciation. Allowance for doubtful accounts represents the percentage of accounts receivable a company believes it cannot collect. Allowance for doubtful accounts offsets a company’s accounts receivable account.

This amount may appear on a company’s balance sheet, and it can ultimately result in a reduction in the gross amount of a business’s fixed assets. In order to balance the journal entry, a debit will be made to the bad debt expense for $4,000. Although the accounts receivable is not due in September, the company still has to report credit losses of $4,000 as bad debts expense in its income statement for the month. If accounts receivable is $40,000 and allowance for doubtful accounts is $4,000, the net book value reported on the balance sheet will be $36,000. A liability that is recorded as a debit balance is used to decrease the balance of a liability.

Contra Accounts Reverse The Rules

The percentage of sales method assumes that the company cannot collect payment for a fixed percentage of goods or services that it has sold. A contra account is an account with a balance opposite the normal accounts in its category. Contra accounts are usually linked to specific accounts on thebalance sheetand are reported as subtractions from these accounts.

contra account definition

Current assets are important to businesses because they can be used to fund day-to-day business operations and to pay for the ongoing operating expenses. Trade accounts receivable refer to an amount that a company bills to its clients when delivering goods or services. These billings may usually be documented on invoices, which are then summarized in an aging report for all the business’s accounts receivable. Contra accounts can get buried in the footnotes of financial statements, but they could be a key piece of your investigation into a growth stock’s prospects. AssetDebits Credits XThe “X” in the debit column denotes the increasing effect of a transaction on the asset account balance , because a debit to an asset account is an increase. The asset account above has been added to by a debit value X, i.e. the balance has increased by £X or $X.

What Is A Contra Account & Why Is It Important?

Examples include the owner’s drawing account, a dividend account, and the treasury stock account. A contra liability account is a liability account where the balance is expected to be a debit balance.

contra account definition

The model lets you answer “What If?” questions, easily and it is indispensable for professional risk analysis. Modeling Pro is an Excel-based app with a complete model-building tutorial and live templates for your own models. Therefore, an account number beginning with 1, for instance, must be an asset account.

Contra Account At A Glance

Treasury stock and drawing accounts are examples of contra equity accounts. Overall, contra accounts are offsetting balances that are the opposite of specific accounts.

If instead of cash, we have another debt into the custodial account, the issuer usually purchases the bonds itself on the open market if the bonds are trading below par value. The type and captions used for equity accounts are dependent on the type of entity. When the two balances are offset against each other they show the net balance of both accounts. Examples include trust accounts, debenture, mortgage loans and more. The first known recorded use of the terms is Venetian Luca Pacioli’s 1494 work, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita .

The bond is listed on the balance sheet at the full amount of $1,000, but the cash received is just $950, so a contra liability for the discount is listed to make the entry balance. Accumulated depreciation is the total of all depreciation that has been charged to existing fixed assets such as equipment and buildings. There can be hidden value in stocks that have a lot of fully depreciated buildings. A contra equity account reduces the total number of outstanding shares listed on a company’s balance sheet. When a company buys back its own shares from the open market, it records the transaction by debiting the treasury stock account. A company may decide to buy back its shares when management feels the stock is undervalued or because it desires to pay stock dividends to its shareholders. The complete accounting equation based on the modern approach is very easy to remember if you focus on Assets, Expenses, Costs, Dividends .

Accumulated DepreciationThe accumulated depreciation of an asset is the amount of cumulative depreciation charged on the asset from its purchase date until the reporting date. It is a contra-account, the difference between the asset’s purchase price and its carrying value on the balance sheet. Accounts Receivable AccountAccounts receivables is the money owed to a business by clients for which the business has given services or delivered a product but has not yet collected payment. They are categorized as current assets on the balance sheet as the payments expected within a year. Irms begin setting up a new accounting system by creating aChart of accounts.

Contra asset accounts also help companies keep their general ledgers organized. By recording reductions in a separate account, companies can get better insights into their actual accounts.

However, these can cause a reduction in other balances on the statement. To offset this, the allowance for doubtful accounts balance is adjusted via a credit, while the bad debt account is debited to balance out the AR account. When combined, the AR account and the allowance for doubtful accounts contra assets offer a projection of how much net contra account definition cash is expected to be received from outstanding accounts. Accountants use contra accounts rather than reduce the value of the original account directly to keep financial accounting records clean. If a contra account is not used, it can be difficult to determine historical costs, which can make tax preparation more difficult and time-consuming.

What Are Examples Of Contra Revenue Accounts?

The transactions made in this account are reported on a company’s financial statements directly under the related account. An example would be a contra liability account which would be debited to offset a regular liability account. A contra account is used in order to better portray the relationship between certain debits and credits within the overall financial structure of an entity. A contra account can be used to remedy an error, to track depreciation of an asset, or to register payments that are not collectible.

The lender may offer the company a discount if it repays the note early. The discount on notes payable reduces the total amount of the note to reflect the discount given by the lender. Therefore, a contra asset account will show the opposite balance – the credit balance. A contra asset account includes allowance for doubtful debt accounts and accumulated depreciation accounts. An accumulated depreciation account is used to record depreciation of fixed assets of a company such as land, machinery, equipment and buildings. This account appears on the asset side of the balance sheet as a reduction from the fixed assets.

  • Each new business starts building its accounting system by creating a Chart of Accounts.
  • Some accountants will keep a reference handy to know if the debit increases or the credit increases an account.
  • In case of cash deposits, the trustee will use those funds and repurchase some or all of the bonds on the open market.
  • Instead, the existence of contra asset accounts for companies will differ based on a company’s requirements.

It usually nets off against related accounts and provides an opposite effect to the balance. Therefore, contra accounts are the reverse accounts that decrease a specific account’s balance.

Contra Liability Account

Note that the Balance Sheet is not affected with the result of the above entry as the cash flow is between two asset accounts. Equity accounts record the claims of the owners of the business/entity to the assets of that business/entity.Capital, retained earnings, drawings, common stock, accumulated funds, etc. Similarly, if bills are overpaid, Accounts Payable may have a temporary debit balance. If a company is operating at a loss, Retained Earnings may have a debit balance. Eying the Trial Balance When reviewing the trial balance for errors, the first step is to eye the accounts to see that each account’s balance is in the proper debit or credit column. Outstanding SharesOutstanding shares are the stocks available with the company’s shareholders at a given point of time after excluding the shares that the entity had repurchased.

An owner’s or stockholders’ equity account with a debit balance instead of the normal credit balance. Examples include the owner’s drawing account, a dividend account, and the treasury stock account. To record the purchase of a fixed asset, debit the asset account for the purchase price, and credit the cash account for the same amount. For example, a temporary staffing agency purchased $3,000 worth of furniture. In the sales revenue section of an income statement, the sales returns and allowances account is subtracted from sales because these accounts have the opposite effect on net income.

If you depreciated it evenly you would take $20,000, divide it by 5 and expense $4,000 each year. On the balance sheet you would list the asset at $20,000 then show the $4,000 in accumulated depreciation being subtracted from it for a net value of $16,000. Accumulated depreciation is a contra account because it subtracts from the asset. Allowance for doubtful accounts is a contra account because it subtracts from the asset accounts receivable. In essence, contra asset accounts have a negative balance while other asset accounts have a positive balance.

Businesses use sales returns accounts to track product issues and customer trends. This account is not classified as an asset since it does not represent a long term value. It is not classified as a liability since it does not constitute a future obligation.

$100,000 – $5,000 (the 5% allowance for doubtful accounts) to equal a net receivable amount of $95,000. Is debited when a company buys back its shares from the open market. Notes PayableNotes Payable is a promissory note that records the borrower’s written promise to the lender for paying up a certain amount, with interest, by a specified date. BondsBonds refer to the debt instruments issued by governments or corporations to acquire investors’ funds for a certain period. Harold Averkamp has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.