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Accounts Receivable vs. Notes Receivable: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 26, 2024
Accounts Receivable refers to money owed to a company by its customers. Notes Receivable refers to a formal, written promise for payment owed to a company.

Key Differences

Accounts receivable represents the money owed to a company for goods or services delivered but not yet paid for. It's an informal agreement based on the trust that the customer will pay within a set time frame. Notes receivable, on the other hand, is a more formal agreement. It involves a written promise or note where the debtor agrees to pay the creditor a specific amount on a certain date or on demand.
Accounts receivable is recorded when a sale is made on credit. It's an expected cash inflow and a common occurrence in daily business transactions. The informality of accounts receivable implies a shorter-term, typically within a year. Notes receivable entails a written document that specifies the terms of payment, including interest, making it legally binding and more formal than accounts receivable.
In accounts receivable, no interest is usually charged unless the payment is overdue. It reflects a typical business-customer relationship. Notes receivable often includes an interest component, reflecting a financial or lending relationship. The documentation in notes receivable gives it a legal standing, which is absent in the typical accounts receivable arrangement.
Accounts receivable is considered a current asset on a company's balance sheet, indicating expected cash within a short period. Notes receivable can be classified as a current or non-current asset, depending on the payment terms. If the note is due within one year, it's a current asset; if it's due later, it's a non-current asset.
For accounts receivable, the collection process is usually straightforward, involving reminders and follow-ups. In contrast, notes receivable involves more rigorous steps in case of default, including legal action, due to its formal nature and the inclusion of specific terms and conditions.

Comparison Chart


Informal credit agreement
Formal written agreement


Usually interest-free
Typically includes interest

Time Frame

Short-term (usually within a year)
Can be short or long-term

Legal Standing

Less formal, harder to legally enforce
Legally binding due to written documentation

Classification in Books

Always a current asset
Can be a current or non-current asset

Accounts Receivable and Notes Receivable Definitions

Accounts Receivable

Money owed to a company by customers for products/services sold on credit.
The company's accounts receivable increased due to the recent surge in credit sales.

Notes Receivable

A written promise where the debtor agrees to pay a certain amount to the creditor.
The company's notes receivable included a promissory note from a long-term client.

Accounts Receivable

An asset representing the amount of funds due from customers.
The accountant updated the balance sheet to reflect the new accounts receivable.

Notes Receivable

An asset representing formal written commitments for future payments.
Notes receivable are often accompanied by interest, increasing the company's income.

Accounts Receivable

A record of sales for which payment has not yet been received.
Her primary task was to monitor the accounts receivable and ensure timely collections.

Notes Receivable

Legal instruments indicating a right to receive payments with interest.
The accountant classified the long-term loan as notes receivable in the financial statement.

Accounts Receivable

The outstanding invoices a company has or the money clients owe the company.
The manager reviewed the accounts receivable to identify overdue payments.

Notes Receivable

A legal document representing a loan made by the creditor.
The notes receivable ledger showed several entries where interest was accruing.

Accounts Receivable

Claims against customers recognized from credit sales.
To improve cash flow, the company decided to reduce its accounts receivable period.

Notes Receivable

Claims against debtors documented through a formal agreement.
When a customer failed to pay, the company enforced the terms outlined in the notes receivable.


How are accounts receivable recorded?

As an asset on the balance sheet when a sale is made on credit.

What are accounts receivable?

Money owed to a company for goods or services sold on credit.

Are notes receivable a current asset?

They can be either current or non-current, depending on the payment terms.

Do accounts receivable include interest?

Usually not, unless the payment is overdue.

How are notes receivable shown in financial statements?

As assets, classified based on the duration until payment is due.

What is notes receivable?

A formal written agreement where a debtor promises to pay a creditor a specific amount.

Is interest usually charged on notes receivable?

Yes, they typically include an interest component.

How does a company collect accounts receivable?

Through reminders and follow-ups with customers.

What is the difference between accounts and notes receivable?

Accounts receivable are informal credit agreements, while notes receivable are formal written promises.

What happens if notes receivable are not paid on time?

The creditor can take legal action based on the formal agreement.

Can accounts receivable be sold?

Yes, they can be sold or factored to third parties.

What is the risk associated with accounts receivable?

The risk of non-payment or late payment by customers.

Are notes receivable negotiable?

Some forms, like promissory notes, can be negotiable instruments.

How does the maturity of notes receivable affect its classification?

If due within a year, it's current; otherwise, it's non-current.

Can both accounts and notes receivable be insured?

Yes, companies can insure against the risk of non-payment.

How do companies manage accounts receivable?

By setting credit policies and actively managing collections.

Can interest on notes receivable be variable?

Yes, depending on the terms of the agreement.

What role does accounts receivable play in liquidity?

It's a key component in determining a company's short-term liquidity.

What impacts the valuation of accounts receivable?

Customer creditworthiness and payment history.

Are notes receivable more secure than accounts receivable?

Yes, due to their formal, legally binding nature.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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