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Bad Debts vs. Doubtful Debts: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 31, 2023
Bad debts are irrecoverable and written off, while doubtful debts are uncertain but still potentially recoverable.

Key Differences

Bad debts are financial losses a company incurs when it realizes that a receivable cannot be collected. Doubtful debts, in contrast, are those receivables where the company is uncertain about collection but hasn't yet written them off as uncollectible.
When a company declares a debt as bad, it acknowledges that the debt is irrecoverable, impacting its financial statements. Doubtful debts, however, represent a gray area where recovery is uncertain, leading to provisions in accounting.
Accounting for bad debts involves removing them from the accounts receivable ledger, directly impacting the profit and loss statement. For doubtful debts, companies estimate and set aside a provision, which affects the balance sheet but not immediately the income statement.
Bad debts are a definite financial loss and can indicate issues in credit policies or customer selection. Doubtful debts, while also indicative of potential problems, allow for some hope of recovery and may involve continued collection efforts.
The treatment of bad debts and doubtful debts in tax filings differs; bad debts are usually deductible, while provisions for doubtful debts might not be, depending on the tax regulations.

Comparison Chart


Not recoverable
Potentially recoverable

Accounting Treatment

Written off immediately
Provision made for potential loss

Financial Impact

Direct impact on profit and loss
Affects the balance sheet

Tax Implications

Usually deductible
Deductibility varies


Reflects definite financial loss
Indicates uncertainty in collection

Bad Debts and Doubtful Debts Definitions

Bad Debts

Bad debts are receivables that a company deems uncollectible.
The company wrote off the unpaid invoice as bad debts.

Doubtful Debts

Doubtful debts are receivables with uncertain collectability.
Given the customer's financial difficulties, their invoice was marked as doubtful debts.

Bad Debts

Bad debts occur when credit extended to customers becomes unrecoverable.
High bad debts this quarter reflect poor credit control.

Doubtful Debts

Doubtful debts are potential losses in receivables.
The company made provisions for doubtful debts after noticing delayed payments.

Bad Debts

Bad debts represent financial losses due to non-payment.
After multiple failed collection attempts, the account was classified as bad debts.

Doubtful Debts

Doubtful debts are receivables at risk of becoming bad debts.
To mitigate risk, the company closely monitors its doubtful debts.

Bad Debts

Bad debts are the portion of credit sales that are lost.
The company's bad debts increased due to lax credit policies.

Doubtful Debts

Doubtful debts represent the ambiguity in recovering owed money.
The economic downturn led to an increase in doubtful debts.

Bad Debts

Bad debts are irrecoverable amounts owed to a business.
The bankruptcy of their client turned the outstanding balances into bad debts.

Doubtful Debts

Doubtful debts are those receivables where recovery is in question.
The auditor advised increasing the allowance for doubtful debts.


What constitutes doubtful debts?

Receivables where the likelihood of collection is uncertain.

How do bad debts affect financial statements?

They are written off, reducing net income.

Can bad debts be recovered?

Typically, no, as they're considered lost.

How do companies estimate for doubtful debts?

Through historical data and current economic conditions.

Are bad debts tax-deductible?

Usually, they are deductible as a business expense.

Are doubtful debts written off immediately?

No, they're accounted for as a provision.

Is there a chance to recover doubtful debts?

Yes, there's still a possibility of recovery.

Is the provision for doubtful debts tax-deductible?

It varies by tax jurisdiction.

What are bad debts?

Bad debts are receivables that are deemed irrecoverable.

What triggers the classification of a debt as bad?

Non-payment and customer insolvency.

Can provisions for doubtful debts be reversed?

Yes, if the likelihood of collection improves.

Are doubtful debts an indicator of financial trouble?

They can be a warning sign.

Does writing off bad debts impact cash flow?

No, the impact is on profit, not cash flow.

What's the difference in accounting for bad and doubtful debts?

Bad debts are written off, while doubtful debts are provisioned.

Can a doubtful debt become a bad debt?

Yes, if it becomes clear that it's uncollectible.

What role does customer screening play in preventing bad debts?

Effective screening can reduce the likelihood of bad debts.

When do companies provision for doubtful debts?

When there's uncertainty about receivable collection.

How do bad debts impact a company's credit policy?

They often lead to stricter credit terms.

How do auditors view bad and doubtful debts?

As indicators of financial health and risk.

Do bad debts affect a company's profitability?

Yes, they reduce net income.
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
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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