Contra Account Definition, Types, and Example

accumulated depreciation
financial accounting

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  • Without using a contra account, it can be difficult to determine historical costs which can make tax preparation more difficult and time-consuming.
  • An allowance for doubtful accounts is considered a “contra asset,” because it reduces the amount of an asset, in this case the accounts receivable.
  • Units should consider using an allowance for doubtful accounts when they are regularly providing goods or services “on credit” and have experience with the collectability of those accounts.
  • There are generally two contra asset accounts used by companies that are an allowance for doubtful debts account and an accumulated depreciation account.
  • In response, the firm should decrease its accounts receivable and revenue balances.

The tricky part is that the machine doesn’t really decrease in value – until it’s sold. Depreciation is the method of accounting used to allocate the cost of a fixed asset over its useful life and is used to account for declines in value. It helps companies avoid major losses in the year it purchases the fixed assets by spreading the cost over several years. A contra account is a balance sheet account that is used to offset a related asset, liability, or equity account.

Contra equity accounts

Most accountants choose to record the depreciation over the useful life of an item in the accumulated depreciation contra asset account, which is a credit account. The balance sheet would show the piece of equipment at its historical cost, then subtract the accumulated depreciation to reflect the accurate value of the asset. Balance sheet, users of financial statements can learn more about the assets of a company.

fixed assets

Adjunct accounts and contra accounts may be seen on the balance sheet and chart of accounts of certain companies. This is dependent on if they have receivable accounts and depreciation accounts. In the books, the account of the asset would have a debit value of $100,000, and the CA account would have a credit value of $30,000.


By stating this information separately in a contra asset account, a user of financial information can see the extent to which a paired asset should be reduced. A less common example of a contra asset account is Discount on Notes Receivable. The credit balance in this account is amortized or allocated to Interest Income or Interest Revenue over the life of a note receivable. This type of account could be called the allowance for doubtful accounts or bad debt reserve.

Contra LiabilityA contra liability is a liability account that carries a debit balance as opposed to a credit balance. The allowance for doubtful accounts – often called a “bad debt reserve” – would be considered a contra asset since it causes the accounts receivable (A/R) balance to decline. Note that accountants use contra accounts rather than reduce the value of the original account directly to keep financial accounting records clean. Depreciation, every year, is treated as an expense and debited to the profit and loss account. Hence, accumulated depreciation is separately deducted from the asset’s value and treated as a contra asset that offsets the balance of the asset.

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This is done either to increase the value of the existing shares or to prevent various shareholders from controlling the company. These accounts can be listed based on the respective asset, liability, or equity account to reduce their original balance. Current Assets include assets that are expected to be converted into cash within a year from the balance sheet date. Units should consider using an allowance for doubtful accounts when they are regularly providing goods or services “on credit” and have experience with the collectability of those accounts. The following entry should be done in accordance with your revenue and reporting cycles , but at a minimum, annually. If depreciation expense is calculated without taking into account the asset’s residual value, depreciation expense will be higher than it should have been.

Presentation of Contra Assets

An asset’s accumulated depreciation is dependent on its salvage value. This salvage value is the amount that a company may expect to receive in exchange for selling an asset at the end of its useful life. The total decrease in the value of an asset on the balance sheet over time is accumulated depreciation. The values of all assets of any type are put together on a balance sheet rather than each individual asset being recorded. 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.

The amount is reported on the balance sheet in the asset section immediately below accounts receivable. The net of these two figures is typically reported on a third line. Other assets include noncurrent assets that are not classified as one of the above accounts.

types of contra

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Why are contra asset accounts important for businesses?

Contra liability accounts are less commonly used than contra asset accounts. Contra liability accounts are mainly used by corporations that issue bonds frequently. That is because some of the bonds are issued at a discount, so this reduces the balance of their bonds payable. Contra asset accounts are prepared so that an asset’s gross value and deductions can be shown separately. The accounting rules applicable to contra asset accounts are exactly opposite to asset accounts. Contra asset accounts are credited when these are increased and debited when these are decreased.

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The “Accumulated Depreciation” line item is the contra asset account reflected on the balance sheet, but often they are combined as “PP&E, net”. Contra EquityA contra equity account has a debit balance instead of a credit. The proper size of a contra asset account can be the subject of considerable discussion between a company controller and the company’s auditors. The auditors want to ensure that reserves are adequate, while the controller is more inclined to keep reserves low in order to increase the reported profit level. However, that $1.4 billion is used to reduce the balance of gross accounts receivable. Therefore, contra accounts, though they represent a positive amount, are used to net reduce a gross amount.

Resource Cost Write-Off

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A account is a general ledger account with a balance that is the opposite of another, related account that it is paired with. The asset’s balance is reduced by the impairment amount to reflect the asset’s new economic value and the account remains on the balance sheet. In accounting, notes receivables are accounts to keep track of accrued assets that have been earned but not yet received.

The balance of a contra liability account is a debit balance. Contra Liability a/c is not used as frequently as contra asset accounts. It is not classified as a liability since it does not represent a future obligation. A contra liability is an account in which activity is recorded as a debit balance is used to decrease the balance of a liability. The natural balance in a contra asset account is a credit balance, as opposed to the natural debit balance in all other asset accounts. There is no reason for there to ever be a debit balance in a contra asset account; thus, a debit balance probably indicates an incorrect accounting entry.

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payroll accounting debt expense is an expense that a business incurs once the repayment of credit previously extended to a customer is estimated to be uncollectible. Intangible assets include assets that do not have physical substance, but provide future economic benefits. Current assets are not depreciated because of their short-term life.

Units of production method of depreciation is used when the asset is not frequently used. Understand what a balance sheet is, learn what a balance sheet shows, examine its format, and see an example of a balance sheet. In other words, accumulated depreciation will be $10,000 each year until the car depreciates to $0 twenty years later. The company uses the straight-line depreciation method for the car. Sales discounts are when the company reduces the price of a certain product whenever the customer completes the payment early. The main reason is to make the remaining shares more valuable, as their prices are expected to rise after the stock buyback.

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