How to reconcile accounts receivable

The reconciliation of accounts receivable is the process of matching the detailed amounts of unpaid customer billings to the accounts receivable total stated in the general ledger. This matching process is important, because it proves that the general ledger figure for receivables is justified. The two information sources for this reconciliation are as follows:

  • General ledger. There is usually an account in the general ledger that is specifically designated for the sole compilation of all receivables related to customers (known as trade receivables). After all transactions have been recorded for a reporting period and all subsidiary ledger balances have been posted to the general ledger, the resulting ending balance in the receivables account is the summary total to be verified through a reconciliation.
  • Receivables detail. The detailed listing of unpaid customer billings that should match the ending balance in the general ledger is usually recorded in a subsidiary sales ledger. To extract this information for reconciliation purposes, print the aged accounts receivable report as of the final day of the reporting period. The totals on this report are then compared to the receivable total in the general ledger.

When the reconciliation is conducted, there may be differences between the two amounts for the following reasons:

  • A journal entry was made to the general ledger account that bypassed the subsidiary sales ledger. This is the most common reason for a difference.
  • A billing was accidentally posted to an account other than the trade receivables account. This is the least common reason for a difference, since the billing module is set to automatically record all billings to the correct account.
  • The aged receivables report was run as of a different date than the date used to obtain the general ledger balance.

This reconciliation process is typically conducted as part of the month-end closing activities prior to issuance of the financial statements. If the reconciliation is not conducted and there turns out to be an error in the general ledger, this means there could be a material inaccuracy in the financial statements.

At a minimum, there should be a reconciliation of accounts receivable at the end of the fiscal year, so that any inaccuracies related to receivables will have been removed from the financial statements prior to their examination by the company's external auditors.