Definition: Accounts receivable is short-term amounts due from buyers to a seller who have purchased goods or services from the seller on credit. Accounts receivable is listed as a current asset on the seller's balance sheet.
The total amount of accounts receivable allowed to an individual customer is typically limited by a credit limit, which is set by the seller's credit department, based on the finances of the buyer and its past payment history with the seller. Credit limits may be reduced during difficult financial conditions when the seller cannot afford to incur excessive bad debt losses.
Accounts receivable are commonly paired with the allowance for doubtful accounts (a contra account), in which is stored a reserve for bad debts. The combined balances in the accounts receivable and allowance accounts represent the net carrying value of accounts receivable.