Notes Payable Accounting

What are Notes Payable?

Notes payable are liabilities and represent amounts owed by a business to a third party. What distinguishes a note payable from other liabilities is that it is issued as a promissory note.

With a promissory note, the business who issued the note (called the issuer) promises in writing, to pay an amount of money (principal and interest) to a third party (called the payee) at a given time or on demand.

The face of the note payable or promissory note should show the following information.

Information shown on a Note Payable

  1. Issuer or Maker: The person or business who promises to repay the principal and interest.
  2. Payee: The person or business who the note is payable to.
  3. Principal or face value: The amount being borrowed.
  4. Term of note: The amount of time the borrower has to repay the note.
  5. Issue date: The date on which the promissory note is written.
  6. Interest rate: The fee charged fro the use of the money; stated as a percentage of the principal.
  7. Maturity date: The due date on which the note is payable.

Notes Payable on Balance Sheet

Short term notes payable are due within one year from the balance sheet date and classified under current liabilities in the balance sheet, long term notes payable have terms exceeding one year and are classified as long term liabilities in the balance sheet. It should be noted that the current portion of long term notes payable are classified as a current liability.

notes payable in the balance sheet

Note Payable Example Journal Entry

A business will issue a note payable if for example, it wants to obtain a loan from a lender or to extend its payment terms on an overdue account with a supplier. In the first case the note payable is issued in return for cash, in the second case they are issued in return for cancelling an accounts payable balance.

Issued for Cash

In notes payable accounting there are a number of journal entries needed to record the note payable itself, accrued interest, and finally the repayment.

Suppose for example, a business issues a note payable for 15,000 due in 3 months at 8% simple interest in order to obtain a loan, then the total interest due at the end of the 3 months is 15,000 x 8% x 3 / 12 = 300.

The first journal is to record the principal amount of the note payable.

Note Payable – Issued for new borrowing
Account Debit Credit
Cash 15,000
Notes payable 15,000
Total 15,000 15,000

The debit is to cash as the note payable was issued in respect of new borrowings.

Issued to Extend Payment Terms

Had the note payable been issued in respect of an overdue supplier account in order to extend the terms of payment, then this would have converted an accounts payable to a note payable, and the debit would be to accounts payable as follows:

Note Payable – Issued to replace accounts payable
Account Debit Credit
Accounts payable 15,000
Notes payable 15,000
Total 15,000 15,000

In this case the note payable is issued to replace an amount due to a supplier currently shown as accounts payable, so no cash is involved.

As the notes payable charge interest, each month interest of 300 / 3 = 100 needs to be accrued. At the end of the 3 month term the total interest of 300 would have been accrued.

Note Payable – Accrue the interest
Account Debit Credit
Interest expense 300
Interest payable 300
Total 300 300

Finally, at the end of the 3 month term the notes payable have to be paid together with the accrued interest, and the following journal completes the transaction.

Notes Payable – Payment at the end of the term
Account Debit Credit
Notes payable 15,000
Interest payable 300
Cash 15,300
Total 15,300 15,300

Discount on Note Payable

In the above example, the principal amount of the note payable was 15,000, and interest at 8% was payable in addition for the term of the notes. Sometimes notes payable are issued for a fixed amount with interest already included in the amount. In this case the business will actually receive cash lower than the face value of the note payable.

Note Payable Discount Example

Suppose for example, a business issued a note payable for 14,600 payable in 1 year and received cash of 13,744. The 14,600 is the total amount to be repaid and interest assumed to be included in this amount is 14,600 – 13,744 = 826.

The cash amount in fact represents the present value of the notes payable and the interest included is referred to as the discount on notes payable.

The present value of the notes payable is calculated using the present value formula PV = FV / (1 + i%)n, where FV = future value, in this case 14,600, i% = the interest rate, say 6% and n = the term in years, in this case 1 year.

PV = FV / (1 + i%)n
PV = 14,600 / 1.06 = 13,774

The note payable would be recorded as follows:

Note Payable – Discount on note payable
Account Debit Credit
Cash 13,774
Discount on note payable 826
Notes payable 14,600
Total 14,600 14,600

The discount on a note payable account is a balance sheet contra liability account, as it is netted off against the note payable account to show the net liability.

Each month a portion of the discount on the note payable is charged as an interest expense. In the example above, the amount is 826 / 12 = 69 per month.

Note Payable – Discount charged as expense
Account Debit Credit
Interest expense 69
Discount on notes payable 69
Total 69 69

At the end of the term, all the discount is included as an expense in the income statement, the balance on the discount on notes payable account is zero, and the balance on the notes payable account is paid.

Note Payable – Payment at the end of the term
Account Debit Credit
Notes payable 14,600
Cash 14,600
Total 14,600 14,600

Quick Q & A on Notes Payable

  1. What is the difference between notes payable and accounts payable?
    Both are liabilities but a note payable is issued as a promissory note.
  2. Where do notes payable go?
    A note payable can be either a current or a non-current liability depending on the term of the note.
  3. What is considered a long term note payable?
    Any amount of the note payable due more than 12 months after the balance sheet date.
  4. Are notes payable an expense?
    A note payable is not an expense, however any interest on the note payable is classified as an expense.
  5. Are notes payable interest bearing debt?
    Yes. A note payable is an interest bearing debt.
  6. Where is notes payable on balance sheet?
    A note payable is shown under either current or long term liabilities on the balance sheet.
  7. Is a note payable an asset?
    No. A note payable is a liability.
  8. Do notes payable go on an income statement?
    No. A note payable is included in the balance sheet of the business.
  9. How do you calculate interest on a note payable?
    As described above interest on notes payable is simple interest calculated on an annual basis and then prorata for the period of the financial statements.
Last modified March 18th, 2020 by Michael Brown

About the Author

Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Double Entry Bookkeeping. He has worked as an accountant and consultant for more than 25 years and has built financial models for all types of industries. He has been the CFO or controller of both small and medium sized companies and has run small businesses of his own. He has been a manager and an auditor with Deloitte, a big 4 accountancy firm, and holds a degree from Loughborough University.

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