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Types of Contra Accounts List of Examples Explanations Definition

Define Contra Asset Account

If the asset account had a credit balance or the contra asset account had a debit balance, this would indicate an error in the journal entries. Note that in accounting, the term “book value” is also used interchangeably with net value. Contra equity reduces the total number of outstanding shares on the balance sheet. The key example of a contra equity account is Treasury stock, which represents the amount paid to buyback stock.

By doing so, you can more clearly see the total amount of the related asset account, which would otherwise have been obscured by the offsetting amount of the reserve. 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 the balance sheet and are reported as subtractions from these accounts.

Definition of Contra Account

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.

If you’re using accounting software, you’ll be able to create contra accounts when setting up your chart of accounts. Contra asset accounts also provide a clear picture of the companies’ accumulation of assets. Similarly, these accounts can also be essential in various calculations.

Contra asset definition

Usually, credit balances include items from one of those two natures. In response, the firm should decrease its accounts receivable and revenue balances. That is done by crediting accounts receivable by $100 and debiting the contra revenue account sales returns and allowances for $100. Hence, the company will have gross revenue or net sales equal to $9,900. Note that the contra liability account has a positive balance (a debit balance), and the liability account normally has a credit balance.

Define Contra Asset Account

For stakeholders, looking at both accounts is also crucial in their decision-making process. Any company that owns intangible assets such as software, patents, etc., will maintain an accumulated amortization account. Similar to depreciation, this account plays a significant role in representing the book value of a company’s assets. For the past 52 years, Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as an accounting supervisor, manager, consultant, university instructor, and innovator in teaching accounting online.

What are the Benefits of Factoring Your Account Receivable?

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. Contra liability, equity, and revenue accounts have natural debit balances. These three types of contra accounts are used to reduce liabilities, equity, and revenue which all have natural credit balances. Therefore, for these three, the debit balance actually represents a negative amount. 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.

The accounting entries for accumulated amortization are as follows. Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts. Master accounting topics that pose a particular challenge to finance professionals. Still, the dollar amounts are separately broken out in the supplementary sections most of the time for greater transparency in financial reporting.


An account with a balance that is the opposite of the normal balance. For example, Accumulated Depreciation is a contra asset account, because its credit balance is contra to the debit balance for an asset account. This is an owner’s equity account and as such you would expect a credit balance. Other examples include (1) the allowance for doubtful accounts, (2) discount on bonds payable, (3) sales returns and allowances, and (4) sales discounts. For example net sales is gross sales minus the sales returns, the sales allowances, and the sales discounts.

Define Contra Asset Account

A contra asset is a negative account used in double-entry accounting to reduce the balance of a paired asset account in the general ledger. This means that accounts receivables have a debit balance of $10,000, and the firm credits revenue for $10,000. A customer returned $100 worth of items, claiming them to be defective. Including contra revenue accounts is important in the income statement because it shows the original amount of sales the firm has made, along with any factor that has reduced that amount. Contra liability accounts are special accounts in the liabilities section of the balance sheet.

What is a Contra Asset Account?

Instead of increasing assets or decreasing liabilities (as would be typical when spending cash), buying treasury stock reduces shareholders’ equity. Specifically, it is contra to shareholders’ equity because it decreases the total shareholders’ equity on the balance sheet. Sometimes, the current value of a note receivable will fall compared to its face value.

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