Invoice to Cash

24 Feb 2024

Forecast Accounts Receivable in 3 Easy Steps Using DSO

Subhasis Sahoo (Founding Member - Marketing)

Accurate forecasting of accounts receivable (AR) is crucial for any business. It helps predict future cash flow, identify potential liquidity issues, and make informed financial decisions. One key metric used in AR forecasting is Days Sales Outstanding (DSO). This blog dives into forecasting accounts receivable using DSO in 3 easy steps, providing a clear guide for businesses of all sizes.

What is DSO and its significance?

DSO measures the average number of days it takes a company to collect payment for its credit sales. A lower DSO indicates faster collection, meaning the company receives its cash quicker, improving cash flow. Conversely, a higher DSO signals slower collection, potentially leading to cash flow difficulties.

Here’s the formula for calculating DSO:

DSO = (Accounts Receivable Balance / Total Credit Sales) * Number of Days in the Period

For example:

Accounts Receivable Balance: $100,000

Total Credit Sales (past year): $1,000,000

Number of Days in the Period (1 year): 365

Calculating DSO:

DSO = ($100,000 / $1,000,000) * 365 = 36.5 days

In this example, it takes the company an average of 36.5 days to collect payment from its credit sales.

Step 1: Calculate Historical DSO

Before you can forecast future AR, understanding your historical DSO is essential. Use the formula above to calculate your DSO for various periods, such as:

  • Monthly DSO: Provides a more granular view and allows for identifying trends like seasonal fluctuations.
  • Quarterly DSO: Offers a broader perspective and simplifies calculations.
  • Yearly DSO: Shows the overall trend and is a good starting point for forecasting.

Step 2: Forecast Sales

The next step involves forecasting your future sales. This can be done through various methods, such as:

  • Reviewing historical sales trends: Analyze past data to identify growth patterns and seasonality.
  • Consulting industry reports: Gain insights into anticipated market trends affecting your business sector.
  • Considering business plan and marketing strategies: Factor in planned marketing campaigns, product launches, or expected changes in customer base.

Step 3: Forecast Accounts Receivable using DSO

Now, let’s utilize your historical DSO and sales forecast to predict your future AR:


  • Accounts Receivable Forecast = DSO * (Sales Forecast / Time)
  • Time: refers to the specific period for which you’re forecasting AR (e.g., month, quarter, year).


  • Assume the historical DSO is 36.5 days (from Step 1).
  • Forecast sales for the next quarter are $300,000.
  • Calculating AR Forecast:
    • AR Forecast (Quarter) = 36.5 days * ($300,000 / 90 days) = $125,000

Therefore, based on your historical DSO and sales forecast, you can expect to have an average AR balance of $125,000 during the next quarter.

Key Points to Consider

DSO as an estimate: Remember, DSO is an average, and individual collections may vary.

  • Adjust DSO for changes: If you anticipate changes in credit policies, customer payment behavior, or industry trends, adjust your DSO accordingly.
  • Monitor and refine: Regularly monitor your actual AR against your forecasts and adjust your calculations if necessary.
  • Seek professional help: For complex forecasting or significant financial decisions, consider consulting a financial professional.

Beyond the Basics

While the 3-step process provides a solid foundation, consider these additional points for a more comprehensive AR forecast:

  • Segmenting customers: Group customers based on payment history, industry, or creditworthiness to forecast AR for each segment separately.
  • Scenario planning: Develop different forecasts based on various possible economic or industry scenarios.
  • Using advanced tools: Consider specialized software or financial models for more sophisticated forecasting and analysis.


Forecasting accounts receivable using DSO provides a valuable tool for businesses to predict future cash flow and manage their financial resources effectively. By following the 3-step process outlined above, businesses can gain valuable insights into their AR and make informed financial decisions for their future growth and success. Remember, continuous monitoring and adjustments are crucial for accurate forecasting and maintaining a healthy cash flow stream.

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