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Understanding Accounts Receivable vs Accounts Payable in Construction

Updated: Apr 8

Are you tired of having to deal with financial headaches while also managing construction projects? Don't worry, you're not alone! Just like laying the groundwork for a new project, managing your finances is crucial for success. Managing accounts receivable and payable is crucial for maintaining a healthy cash flow and ensuring your construction business is successful.


In this blog post, we're going to break down the basics of accounts receivable and payable in a way that is easy to understand. By the end, you will know the difference between the two and also understand how to manage them properly.


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accounts receivable vs payable

What Is Accounts Receivable in Construction?

Accounts receivable (AR) is the money owed to your business by your clients for the services you have provided. Think of it as the dollars waiting in the wings for your grand performance!


For example, let's say you are a contractor who just finished a project for a client. If that client has not paid you yet, the amount they owe you would be considered AR. It is essentially an IOU from your client to you.


But why is AR listed as a current asset on your balance sheet? Well, that is because your firm has extended lines of credit to your clients, which are expected to be paid within agreed terms (30, 60 days, or more). And since you expect to receive this money within a year, it is listed as a current asset.



So, keep your eye on your AR, my construction business buddy! By staying on top of it, you will be sure to keep your cash flow healthy and your business booming.


How to Record Accounts Receivable

Accurate record-keeping is critical for the effective management of accounts receivable.


To record AR, you will need to create an invoice for the work completed and send it to your client. Make sure to include all the important details, like the work completed, the amount owed, and the payment terms. Once your client pays the invoice, be sure to match the receipt to the relevant invoice. Then mark the invoice as paid, and record a journal entry to clear the A/R account balance.


But don't stop there! To ensure a steady stream of cash flow to cover your day-to-day expenses, consider offering incentives for early payment, sending reminders for due balances, and following up with clients who are past due. These simple tricks can make all the difference in keeping your business thriving.


accounts receivable definition

Accounts Payable Definition

On the other hand, AP refers to the money that your business owes to suppliers or vendors for goods or services received.


For instance, if you need to buy lumber for a renovation project, the money you owe to the lumber supplier would be considered accounts payable.


It is important to keep track of your accounts payable because it's your company's current obligation to pay back these debts. Accounts payable is listed as a current liability on your balance sheet because the amount due is expected to be paid within 12 months. Failure to manage your accounts payable could lead to cash flow problems and even affect your business's credit score.


But don't worry; understanding accounts payable is easier than it sounds. By staying on top of your debts and paying them off in a timely manner, you can keep your cash flow healthy and ensure your business thrives.


How to Record Accounts Payable

Similar to accounts receivable, accurate record-keeping is crucial for the effective management of accounts payable. To record accounts payable, you will receive a bill from your supplier or vendor. The bill should include detailed information about the goods or services provided, the amount owed, and the payment terms. The amount that hasn't been paid is added to the accounts payable balance, which will be cleared once payment is made from your business bank account. Once you have paid the invoice, you will need to record the payment in your accounting software and update your general ledger.


See how Accounts Receivable and Payable actually look on your balance sheet:

is accounts receivable an asset

Download the full free guide and take control of your construction business finances today.

Balance Sheet-Construction Finance Essentials Worksheet A-9
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Accounts Payable vs Accounts Receivable: Key Differences

As a construction business owner, it is crucial to understand the difference between accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR). While both play a vital role in financial management, the two are quite different from one another. Here's a comparison table that highlights some key differences between accounts payable and receivable

Accounts Receivable

Accounts Payable

Money owed to your business

Money your business owes to others

Waiting for customers to pay you

Paying other parties

Maintain cash flow and fund future projects


Maintain good relationships with suppliers and avoid late fees or penalties

Recorded as a current asset on a balance sheet

Recorded as a current liability on a balance sheet

Recognized as income unless written off

Recognized as a liability until paid

AR and AP management can be a real headache for contractors. But fear not, because there is a solution: Construction Cost Accounting (CCA). CCA is a specialized accounting service designed specifically for construction businesses.


With CCA, you can rest easy knowing that your accounts are being managed with transparency and accuracy. By tracking your A/R and A/P through our services, you can prevent errors, minimize the risk of fraud, and keep your business running like a well-oiled machine.


In Conclusion,

Managing accounts receivable and payable is essential for success in the construction industry. While it can be challenging, understanding the basics and implementing best practices is key to avoiding cash flow problems and keeping your business running smoothly.


At CCA, we specialize in providing expert bookkeeping services for construction businesses, so you can focus on what you do best - building great projects.


Don't let financial headaches hold you back - contact CCA today and take control of your finances with our help.


what is the difference between accounts receivable and accounts payable?


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