Accounts receivable (A/R) is one of a series of accounting transactions dealing with the billing of customers who owe money to a person, company or organization for goods and services that have been provided to the customer. In most business entities this is typically done by generating an invoice and mailing or electronically delivering it to the customer, who in turn must pay it within an established timeframe called credit or payment terms.
An example of a common payment term is Net 30, meaning payment is due in the amount of the invoice 30 days from the date of invoice. Other common payment terms include Net 45 and Net 60 but could in reality be for any time period agreed upon by the vendor and the customer.
While booking a receivable is accomplished by a simple accounting transaction, the process of maintaining and collecting payments on the accounts receivable subsidiary account balances can be a full time proposition. Depending on the industry in practice, accounts receivable payments can be received up to 10 - 15 days after the due date has been reached. These types of payment practices are sometimes developed by industry standards, corporate policy, or because of the financial condition of the client.
On a company's balance sheet, accounts receivable is the amount that customers owe to that company. Sometimes called trade receivables, they are classified as current assets assuming that they are due within one year. To record a journal entry for a sale on account, one must debit a receivable and credit a revenue account. When the customer pays off their accounts, one debits cash and credits the receivable in the journal entry. The ending balance on the trial balance sheet for accounts receivable is always debit.
Business organizations which have become too large to perform such tasks by hand (or small ones that could but prefer not to do them by hand) will generally use accounting software on a computer to perform this task.
Associated accounting issues include recognizing accounts receivable, valuing accounts receivable, and disposing of accounts receivable.