28 Feb 2024

Conquer Past Due AR: Strategies for Healthy Cash Flow

Subhasis Sahoo (Founding Member - Marketing)

Accounts receivable (AR) is one of the most important line items on a company’s balance sheet. It represents the money owed to the company by its customers for goods or services that have been delivered but not yet paid for. Efficient management of AR is crucial for maintaining healthy cash flow and ensuring a business’s financial stability.  However, a critical challenge arises when invoices become past due.

This blog will provide a comprehensive technical explanation of past due accounts receivable, including their causes, impacts, and best practices for effectively managing them.

What are Past Due Accounts Receivable?

Past due accounts receivable are outstanding invoices that have exceeded the agreed-upon payment terms between a business and its customers. When the payment deadline stipulated on an invoice passes without full payment, the invoice becomes past due. The length of time an invoice remains past due can vary, and accounts can be classified into categories like 30 days past due, 60 days past due, and so on.

Causes of Past Due Accounts Receivable

Several factors can contribute to past due accounts receivable:

  • Customer cash flow problems: Customers may experience financial difficulties that prevent them from making timely payments.
  • Administrative or billing errors: Inaccurate invoices, missing information, or incorrect billing addresses can cause delays in payment processing.
  • Disputes: Customers may dispute certain charges or aspects of the invoice, leading to delayed payments while the dispute is resolved.
  • Poor communication: Lack of clear communication regarding payment terms, expectations, or follow-up procedures can create confusion and contribute to late payments.
  • Intentional delays: Some customers may deliberately delay payments to improve their own cash flow or use it as a negotiation tactic.

The Impact of Past Due Accounts Receivable

Past due accounts receivable can have significant negative consequences for a business:

  • Cash flow disruptions: Past due payments hinder a company’s cash flow, potentially leading to difficulties in meeting financial obligations such as payroll, supplier payments, and investments.
  • Increased bad debt: The longer an invoice remains past due, the higher the likelihood that it will never be paid, resulting in bad debt write-offs.
  • Strained customer relationships: Repeatedly chasing customers for late payments can strain relations and damage the business’s reputation.
  • Opportunity cost: The time and resources spent on collections efforts for past due accounts take away from other important business activities.

Managing Past Due Accounts Receivable: Best Practices

Effective management of past due receivables is essential to mitigate their negative impact. Here are key best practices:

  1. Establish Clear Credit Policies: Develop well-defined credit policies that outline payment terms, credit limits, the process for approving customers for credit, and procedures for handling late payments. Communicate these policies clearly to customers.
  2. Conduct Credit Checks: Before extending credit, perform credit checks on new customers to assess their creditworthiness and likelihood of timely payment.
  3. Accurate and Timely Invoicing: Ensure invoices are accurate, detailed, and promptly sent to customers. Provide multiple payment options for customer convenience.
  4. Proactive Collections Process: Implement a structured collections process that involves proactive communication with customers. This should include:
  5. Friendly reminders: Send friendly payment reminders before the invoice due date and a few days after it becomes past due.
  6. Escalation: Gradually escalate the tone and frequency of communications as the account becomes further past due.
  7. Phone calls: Supplement reminders with phone calls to customers to discuss the past due invoices and resolve any issues.
  8. Payment plans: If a customer is experiencing temporary financial difficulties, consider negotiating a payment plan.
  9. Leverage AR Automation Tools: Utilize accounts receivable automation software to streamline invoicing, automate payment reminders, track past due accounts, and generate aging reports.
  10. Outsource Collections: For seriously delinquent accounts, consider outsourcing collections efforts to a third-party agency specializing in debt recovery.
  11. Legal Action: As a last resort, consider legal action to recover past due debts.
  12. Regular Review and Analysis: Frequently review accounts receivable aging reports to analyze trends, identify potential problem areas, and adjust your collections strategies accordingly.

Preventative Measures

In addition to effectively managing past due accounts, implement preventative measures to minimize their occurrence:

  • Offer Multiple Payment Options: Provide customers with different payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards, ACH payments, and online payment gateways for flexibility and convenience.
  • Incentivize Early Payments: Consider offering discounts or other incentives for customers who pay their invoices early.
  • Late Payment Penalties: Clearly state late payment penalties in your credit policies to deter late payments.


Past due accounts receivable are an unfortunate reality for many businesses. By understanding their causes, impact, and how to manage them, you can protect your business’s financial health. Implement a proactive and consistent approachto collections with a focus on prevention to ensure timely payments and minimize cash flow disruptions.

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