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Debtors vs. Creditors: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 21, 2023
Debtors owe money, whereas creditors are owed money.

Key Differences

Debtors are individuals or entities that owe money. They have borrowed funds from another party and are obligated to pay it back. Creditors, on the other hand, are those to whom money is owed. They have extended funds or services on credit, and they expect to be repaid.
In the business world, debtors can be customers who've purchased goods on credit. They're expected to settle their debts within a given period. Creditors can be suppliers who've provided products or services without immediate payment, trusting that they'll be compensated later.
From a personal finance perspective, debtors might have taken out loans, like mortgages or car loans. They're bound by an agreement to repay the lending institution. Creditors, in this context, could be banks or other financial institutions that have lent out the money.
When looking at a balance sheet, accounts receivable represent money owed to a business by its debtors. On the opposite side, accounts payable signify money that a business owes to its creditors. So, while debtors represent an incoming cash flow, creditors represent an outgoing cash flow.
It's also worth noting that the relationship between debtors and creditors is legally binding. Debtors are legally obligated to repay their debts. If they fail, creditors have the right to take legal actions to recover what's owed to them.

Comparison Chart


Individuals or entities that owe money.
Those to whom money is owed.

Balance Sheet Entry

Represented as accounts receivable.
Represented as accounts payable.

Cash Flow

Indicate an expected incoming cash flow.
Indicate an expected outgoing cash flow.

Legal Standing

Are obligated to pay back and can face legal actions if they don't.
Have the right to take legal actions if not paid.

Typical Example

Customers buying on credit.
Suppliers providing goods or services on credit.

Debtors and Creditors Definitions


Individuals who owe money.
Many debtors struggle to pay back their loans.


Individuals or entities to whom money is owed.
Creditors often charge interest on the amount they lend.


Entities with outstanding debts.
Companies classify their debtors based on the time frame for payment.


Entities holding the right to receive payment.
The company's main creditors are banks and suppliers.


Those with unpaid invoices in business.
The manager reviewed the list of debtors to determine the outstanding amounts.


Lenders in a financial transaction.
Creditors assess the creditworthiness of an individual before lending.


Borrowers from a lender or financial institution.
Debtors should always read the terms before borrowing money.


Providers of goods or services on credit.
Businesses often have a list of creditors they need to pay monthly.


Obligated parties in a financial agreement.
The debtors arranged a payment plan with the bank.


Parties with a legal claim on debts owed.
Creditors can resort to legal action if they aren't paid.


One that owes something to another.


One to whom money or its equivalent is owed.


One who is guilty of a trespass or sin; a sinner.


Plural of creditor


Plural of debtor


Who are debtors?

Debtors are individuals or entities that owe money.

Why would businesses have debtors?

Businesses may have debtors if they sell goods or services on credit.

Can creditors be organizations?

Yes, creditors can be individuals, businesses, or financial institutions.

What do creditors represent?

Creditors are those to whom money is owed.

Are all debtors individuals?

No, debtors can be both individuals and businesses.

How can creditors ensure they get paid?

Creditors can take legal actions against debtors who don't repay.

Is being a debtor the same as being bankrupt?

No, bankruptcy is a legal status, while being a debtor simply means owing money.

Are creditors always external to a business?

No, employees awaiting salaries or inter-company loans can also be considered creditors.

Can debtors refuse to pay?

They can, but there are usually legal and financial consequences.

How do creditors benefit from lending?

Creditors earn interest or profit from the transaction, compensating for the risk taken.

Do creditors always charge interest?

Not always, but many creditors charge interest as compensation for the risk of lending.

Are debtors always in a negative situation?

No, being a debtor simply means owing money. It's not inherently negative.

How can debtors improve their creditworthiness?

Debtors can improve creditworthiness by timely repayments, reducing debts, and maintaining stable finances.

What's the relationship between debtors and creditors on a balance sheet?

Debtors are represented as accounts receivable and creditors as accounts payable.

Can creditors be seen as investors?

Yes, especially if they lend money expecting a return, like bondholders.

Do debtors have rights?

Yes, debtors have rights, which vary by jurisdiction but often include protections from harassment.

How do creditors assess whom to lend to?

Creditors often assess creditworthiness through credit scores, financial statements, and other metrics.

Can creditors sell the debts owed to them?

Yes, some creditors sell debts to collection agencies or other parties.

Do all businesses have debtors and creditors?

Most businesses have both, but it depends on their operational model.

Can debtors negotiate their debts?

Yes, debtors can often negotiate terms, amounts, or payment plans with creditors.
About Author
Written 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.
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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