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Contra Asset

An asset account in which the account's balance will either be a zero or a credit (negative) balance

What is a Contra Account?

In bookkeeping, a contra asset account is an asset account in which the natural balance of the account will either be a zero or a credit (negative) balance. The account offsets the balance in the respective asset account that it is paired with on the balance sheet.

Normal asset accounts have a debit balance, while contra asset accounts are in a credit balance. Therefore, a contra asset can be regarded as a negative asset account. Offsetting the asset account with its respective contra asset account shows the net balance of that asset.

Contra Asset - Diagram

Contra Asset Accounting & Examples

By reporting contra asset accounts on the balance sheet, users of financial statements can learn more about the assets of a company. For example, if a company just reported equipment at its net amount, users would not be able to observe the purchase price, the amount of depreciation attributed to that equipment, and the remaining useful life. Contra asset accounts allow users to see how much of an asset was written off, its remaining useful life, and the value of the asset.

Some of the most common contra assets include accumulated depreciation, allowance for doubtful accounts, and reserve for obsolete inventory.

Accumulated Depreciation

Accumulated depreciation is a contra asset account used to record the amount of depreciation to date on a fixed asset. Examples of fixed assets include buildings, machinery, office equipment, furniture, vehicles, etc. The accumulated depreciation account appears on the balance sheet and reduces the gross amount of fixed assets.

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

Allowance for doubtful accounts (ADA) is a contra asset account used to create an allowance for customers who are not expected to pay the money owed for purchased goods or services. The allowance for doubtful accounts appears on the balance sheet and reduces the amount of receivables.

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