Define: Accounts Receivable

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Accounts Receivable

Quick Summary of Accounts Receivable

Amounts due from customers, also described as a trade debtors.

What is the dictionary definition of Accounts Receivable?

Dictionary Definition

Amounts due to the business from customers for merchandise or services purchased on credit.

The business does not receive payment for these amounts immediately; the delay before payment is referred to as “Days Sales Outstanding (DSO).” Like Accounts Payable, this might also refer to the department responsible for billing customers.


Full Definition of Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable are obligations due to the company from customers. Suppose a company sells a customer $50 in merchandise. The sales account increases by $50 and accounts receivable increases by $50. When the customer pays, cash increases $50 and accounts receivable decreases $50, reducing the accounts receivable for this obligation to $0. Since the company continually makes new sales, however, accounts receivable ordinarily has a positive balance. Accounts receivable are normally due within 90 days or less and are highly liquid. Indeed, in certain industries, accounts receivable are regularly sold or “factored” to receive immediate cash. Accounts receivable are therefore listed on the balance sheet as a current asset, below (completely liquid) cash and above (relatively less liquid) inventory. Accountants assume that the longer an account receivable is outstanding, the less likely it will be paid. Thus accounts receivable are regularly “aged” and written down to reflect the likely portion of accounts receivable that are uncollectible. Rising accounts receivable could mean customers are paying more slowly, but it can also indicate higher sales.


Examples of Accounts Receivable in a sentence

Make sure that the accounts receivable for Acme are up to date before shipping anything else to them.
Accounts Receivable reports that Acme have not paid their bills for ninety days.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Accounts Receivable. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. February 25, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Accounts Receivable. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: February 25, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Accounts Receivable. Retrieved February 25, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Accounts Receivable are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 23rd December 2018.