A/R means accounts receivable, the master account that indicates the total amount customers owe a company at a given point, such as the end of a month or fiscal quarter. Finance people use terms such as "customer receivables" and "accounts receivable" interchangeably and report them in trial balances and balance sheets.
There's no such thing as a "trial balance sheet." In accounting terminology, a trial balance and a balance sheet are distinct reports, although they often interrelate. If you delve into a trial balance, you see two columns marked "Dr." and "Cr." -- the respective meanings of which are debit record and credit record. This report enables accountants to determine account balances and confirm the basic accounting equation that requires that total credits equal to total debits. This is an outgrowth of another equality that mandates that assets equal liabilities plus equity. With a correct trial balance, a company is more likely to prepare a balance sheet that is accurate, complete and law-abiding.
Trial Balance Reporting
On a trial balance, the A/R account has many companions, running from assets and equity items to liabilities, revenues and expenses. The last five items are what accounting people call "financial accounts," and these items constitute the record-keeping backbone of a company. Assets and expenses typically have debit balances, whereas equity, revenues and liabilities generally show credit balances. As a short-term asset, the customer receivables master account goes into the "Dr." column of a balance sheet, alongside expense and asset items.
Balance Sheet Reporting
A balance sheet is also known as a statement of financial position or report on financial condition. Investors comb through this financial data summary to see how a business is doing from a solvency standpoint and whether top leadership is doing a good job managing company money. Being solvent means having more assets, such as cash and investments, than debts. On a balance sheet, the A/R account is in the "short-term or current resources" category because an organization expects customer remittances within the next 12 months.
Business reporters and financial analysts often review A/R balances in conjunction with accounts payable, or A/P, amounts to understand how a company administers the twin money-making items. On one hand, a corporation receives merchandise from suppliers, processes it, adds value to finished goods and then resell the goods for a profit. On the other, the business must screen corporate clients that it deals with, making sure they don't have spotty credit records and can pay for products on time. The A/P account also goes on a trial balance and a balance sheet, but it stays in the "Cr." column because it's a liability account.
Marquis Codjia is a New York-based freelance writer, investor and banker. He has authored articles since 2000, covering topics such as politics, technology and business. A certified public accountant and certified financial manager, Codjia received a Master of Business Administration from Rutgers University, majoring in investment analysis and financial management.