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What is a Debit Memo?

What is a Debit Memo?

Debit Memo Definition

A debit memo (debit memorandum) is a document issued to a buyer. It tackles different purposes, primarily related to accounting record adjustments. 

How Does a Debit Memo Work? 

Let's look at the accounting equation of a debit memo: 

  • Debit Memo Issue: When a seller realizes that the buyer owes more than what was invoiced, the seller issues a debit memo. This can be due to various reasons, such as underbilling, price adjustments, or additional charges.
  • Details: The debit memo details the revised amount owed, the reason for the adjustment, and any other relevant information to clarify the increase in debt. It acts like a mini-invoice that corrects or updates previous financial statements.
  • Buyer Notification: The seller sends the debit memo to the buyer. This is an official notification that the buyer's account will be debited (or charged).
  • Debit Memo Buyer Review: The buyer reviews the adjustments after receiving the memo. The buyer will pay the added amount if they agree. If there are discrepancies, the buyer will contest the charges.
  • Adjustment: Once the debit memo is accepted, the buyer’s account balance is increased by the amount stated. This updates both the buyer and the seller's financial records, ensuring the books reflect increase. 
  • Revised Amount Payment: The final step involves the buyer paying the new amount to the seller's debit card based on the debit memo details. The seller then records this payment.

When to use a Debit Memo

  • Adjusting Invoice: If a seller has undercharged a buyer on an accounts receivable invoice, a debit memo can be issued to correct this. 
  • Returned Goods: A debit memo can adjust the amount owed to reflect the returned goods in the customer account when goods are returned due to defects or incorrect shipments.
  • Bank Transactions: In banking, a debit memo on a bank statement shows a reduction in the bank account balance. This could be due to a bank fee, adjustment, or a charge.
  • Internal Offset: A debit memo is sometimes used for internal adjustments between departments within a company rather than an external transaction. 
  • Incremental Billing: In total billings, companies issue debit memos to adjust the amounts a buyer owes, reflecting charges or services.
  • Record Keeping: Debit memos help maintain accurate accounting records by ensuring that all adjustments to invoices or accounts are adequately documented.
  • Communication: This is an official communication tool between seller and buyer regarding any changes in net terms or transaction amounts.

Elements to Include in a Debit Memorandum

Here's a debit memo template that includes vital elements it must have when you create one: 

  • Memo Date: Specify the date when the debit memo is issued. This is crucial for record-keeping and tracking the transaction timeline.
  • Memo Number: Assign a unique identifier or number to the memo. This number helps organize and reference the memo in future communications.
  • Original Invoice Details: Include information related to the original invoice, such as the invoice number and date. This links the debit memo to the specific transaction that adjusts or corrects.
  • Buyer's Information: Clearly state the name and the buyer's contact details or the debited account. This ensures the memo reaches the correct party and is accounted for properly.
  • Reason for the Debit: Explain why the debit memo is being issued. Detail the specific reason for the additional charge, whether due to a price adjustment, other services, or an error in the original invoice.
  • Debit Amount: Indicate the total amount debited to the buyer's account. This should be the extra amount the buyer owes in addition to the original invoice.
  • Payment Terms: Outline the terms for paying the revised amount. This includes the due date for the additional payment and any penalties for late payment.
  • Contact Information for Inquiries: Provide contact details for someone at the selling entity who can address questions or concerns about the debit memo. This includes a name, phone number, and email address.
  • Supporting Documentation: Attach or reference any supporting documents that justify the debit. This indicates an error on the original invoice, additional services, or price agreement.

Debit Memo Example

For example, assume Company A, a small business, sells bulk office supplies to Company B.

An initial invoice is issued by Company A to Company B for $10,000, covering 100 office chairs at $100 each.

After the invoice was issued and the chairs delivered, Company A realized that the price of the chairs had increased due to a rise in supplier costs, which wasn’t reflected in the original invoice.

The price should have been $110 per chair, not $100.

Memo Debit Details

Issuer: Company A.

Recipient: Company B.

Purpose: To adjust the undercharged amount in the original invoice.

Amount: An additional $10 per chair for 100 chairs, totaling an extra charge of $1,000.

Debit Memo Content:

Reference to the original invoice number.

Reason for the additional charge (increase in supplier costs).

Extra amount due ($10 extra per chair).

Total different amount: $1,000.

The total amount due is $11,000 ($10,000 original + $1,000 other).

In the example, the debit memo corrects the billing amount after the original transaction, ensuring that Company B pays the correct amount and reflects the updated prices. A formal change notification is needed in Company B's accounts payable and Company A's receivable.

Debit Memo vs. Credit Memo

Debit and credit memos are financial documents used for different purposes. 

Debit memorandums, as mentioned above, are issued by a seller and show an amount increase. 

It is commonly used to adjust an invoice amount upward due to undercharging initially or to account for additional charges incurred. This increases the buyer’s accounts payable or decreases accounts receivable. 

A Credit note is issued when there is a need to credit the buyer’s account, effectively reducing the amount they owe. This situation arises when returned goods, overpayment, or goods or services are not rendered as expected. 

A credit memorandum reduces the buyer’s accounts payable or increases the seller’s accounts receivable. Both instruments are crucial in maintaining accurate financial records, ensuring both parties in financial transactions have a clear and formal adjustment record made to the original transaction terms.

Debit Memo vs. Invoice

An invoice is a primary document issued by a seller to a buyer detailing the products or services provided, their prices, and the total amount owed. It is a payment request, starting the billing process, and includes information like invoice number, date, billing address, payment terms, and a detailed item list.

While an invoice starts the payment process for a transaction, a debit note adjusts the payment required, usually increasing it to reflect changes in the transaction or to correct errors. Both are vital for accurate financial accounting, ensuring that the amount billed and paid reflects the actual value of the goods or services.

Force Pay Debit Memo

A “force pay debit memo” is used primarily in banking and financial services. It refers to a transaction that a bank prioritizes. It ensures the payment of a check or debit, often overriding the usual order of payments or even the credit balance. 

These notes include the following components:

  • Payment Prioritization: When a force pay debit memo is issued, it signals that a particular debit transaction will be paid before others, regardless of the order in which the transactions were received.
  • Insufficient Funds: This tool is often used when there aren’t enough funds in the account to cover all outstanding checks or debits. By issuing a force pay debit memo, the bank ensures that the specific transaction it covers is cleared, potentially at the expense of other transactions.
  • Bank Debit Memo: The decision to issue a force pay debit memo is at the bank’s discretion and can be based on various factors, like the payee's importance, the check size, or their history with the bank.
  • Overdraft Fees: If the force pay debit memo causes the account to go into the overdraft, the account holder can incur overdraft fees. This underscores the importance of careful account management importance.
  • Legal and Financial Implications: Such memos can have legal and financial implications if other payments are returned or additional fees are charged.

Debit Memo and Cash Flow

A debit memo directly impacts a company’s cash flow, a crucial aspect of financial management. Although reflecting a relatively minor change in a single transaction, a debit memo change can substantially affect the cash flow statement when considered across multiple transactions.

From the seller's perspective, a debit memo represents an expected increase in cash inflow. 

For example, if a company realizes it is undercharged for services rendered and issues a debit memo to correct this, the adjusted higher payment from the buyer, once received, enhances the company’s cash inflows. This can be significant for working capital management, enabling the business to meet its short-term financial obligations more effectively or to invest in other operational areas.

For the recipient (buyer), a debit memo means an increased liability or accounts payable. This can affect the company’s cash outflows, requiring financial planning and analysis

The company must allocate more funds to settle its accounts payable, which could affect its liquidity position. This is critical if the debit memos are substantial or frequent, as it can require the company to adjust its budget, delay other payments, or, sometimes, re-negotiate net terms with other vendors or seek short-term financing options.

Debit Memo and Accounts Receivable Software

Debit memos play a crucial role in the AR process. Incorporating accounting software, like an accounts receivable automation solution, streamlines managing these adjustments. 

  • Simplified Handling: AR teams dealing with high invoice volumes can use an AR solution to simplify debit memo management. Companies can automate the debit memo generation and reconciliation. This ensures accuracy, reduces manual effort, and enhances collection process efficiency.
  • Real-Time Visibility: Insights and analytics empower finance teams to monitor and analyze debit memo trends, helping them promptly identify and address underlying issues. Consequently, businesses can improve their collections strategy, minimize DSO, and enhance cash flow.
  • Integration: An accounts receivable software allows seamless integration with other business tools. This ensures data related to debit memos remains consistent across systems. This facilitates a holistic view of financial transactions, enabling better decision-making and strategic planning.


Why did I get a debit memo?

You received a debit memo because the seller identified additional charges or corrections needed beyond the original invoice amount. This can be due to underbilling, price adjustments, other services or products provided, or an error in the initial billing.

Who sends a debit memo?

The seller or the supplier sends a debit memo to the buyer or the client to notify an increase in the amount owed due to additional charges or corrections to a previous invoice.

What is difference between credit memo and debit memo?

A credit memo reduces the amount a buyer owes a seller, often issued for returns or overpayments. A debit memo increases the amount a buyer owes for additional charges or corrections. 

Can debit memo be reversed?

Yes, a debit memo can be reversed. The seller issues a credit memo to offset or cancel the charges specified in the original debit memo, effectively changing the increase in the amount owed by the buyer.

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