Charge-Off

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DEFINITION of 'Charge-Off'

A term describing an expense on a company's income statement. A charge-off will fall under one of the following categories:

1. A debt that is deemed uncollectible by the reporting firm and is subsequently written off. This type will be classified as 'bad debt expense' on the income statement, and removed from the balance sheet.

2. A probable one-time extraordinary expense incurred by a company that negatively affects earnings and results in a write-down of some of the firm's assets. The write-down arises due to impairments of assets.

BREAKING DOWN 'Charge-Off'

1. Bad debt expenses arise when a firm is unable to collect on some of its accounts receivable (AR). When this occurs, the firm has little recourse; it could either sell the probable bad debt to a collection agency (a sale will be recorded on the firm's books, but not as an expense), or it could just write-off the uncollectible amount as an expense on the income statement.

2. Companies often say something like: "we will take a one-time charge against earnings this quarter." This means that an extraordinary event has occurred and, altough it affects present earnings, it is unlikely to occur again. As a result, a company will usually provide an earnings per share (EPS) figure with and without this charge.

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