Journal Entry for Sales Returns (Returns Inwards)

True Tamplin

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on October 20, 2021

Returns Inwards: Definition

Occasionally, customers return the merchandise they purchase. In accounting, such returned merchandise are termed as sales returns or returns inwards. The major reasons for sales returns are:

  • Defective merchandise was shipped
  • An excessive quantity of merchandise was shipped
  • Low-quality merchandise was shipped
  • Merchandise shipped to customers do not match the order specification

When merchandise is returned, customers usually ask for a cash refund. However, a customer may find that low-quality (or slightly damaged) goods can be resold at a lower price or they can be used elsewhere.

In such circumstances, they usually prefer to retain the goods in question and ask for an allowance (e.g., price reduction) from the seller rather than returning the goods and asking for a refund.

The refunds and allowances discussed above are accounted for by maintaining an account known as the sales returns and allowances account.

Journal Entries

Return of Merchandise Sold for Cash

When customers return merchandise sold for cash, the sales returns and allowances account is debited and the accounts payable account is credited.

This entry is made when a customer notifies the business that they will return the merchandise.

Afterward, another journal entry may be required in which the accounts payable account is debited and the cash account is credited. This journal entry is made when a cash refund is given to the customer for the goods they returned.

These two journal entries complete the accounting process required in the books of the seller for the return of merchandise.


On 1 January 2016, the Modern Trading Company sold merchandise for $2,500 to Small Retailers. Small Retailers received the delivery on the same day and found the merchandise costing $500 did not meet the order specification.

These merchandise were returned to the Modern Trading Company on the same day. In turn, the Modern Trading Company granted a cash refund of $500 to Small Retailers on 2 January 2016.


In the books of seller (i.e., Modern Trading Company), make a journal entry:

  1. At the time of the sale of merchandise for $2,500
  2. At the time of the return of merchandise costing $500
  3. At the time of the cash refund of $500


Modern Trading Company Journal Entries for Sales Return

Return of Merchandise Sold on Account

When merchandise are returned by a credit customer, only one journal entry is required. In this entry, the sales returns and allowances account is debited and the accounts receivable account is credited.


On 1 February 2016, John Enterprise sold merchandise for $1,500 to Sam Enterprise on account. On the same date, merchandise amounting to $200 were returned to John Enterprise because they failed to meet the required quality standards.

Required: Pass journal entries in the books of John Enterprise at the time of the sale and at the time of the return of merchandise.


John Enterprise Journal Entries for Sales Return

Get Tips from the Experts

While returns inwards are common in most businesses, there are several ways you can avoid them. Discover how to do this by connecting with a financial advisor in Middlesex County, MA.

If you live outside the area, please visit our financial advisor page to find a professional who is closer to you.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True contributes to his own finance dictionary, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, his interview on CBS, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.

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