Average Payment Period

Average payment period (APP) is one of the activity ratios which measures the relationship between accounts payable and average purchases per day. Activity ratios help businesses to measure how efficiently various accounts are converted into sales or cash. Other activity ratios include average collection period, total asset turnover and inventory turnover analysis.

APP calculates how efficiently accounts payable are settled. It indicates, on average, how many days does it take to pay off accounts payable. APP is also referred to as the average age of accounts payable or the accounts payable turnover ratio.

The formula to calculate the APP is as follows:

APP = Accounts payable/Average purchases per day

The figure for accounts payable is obtained from the balance sheet and the figure for purchases is indirectly obtained from the income statement. Here the difficulty of calculating APP is highlighted. A figure for purchases is usually not available. Therefore, purchases are usually estimated as a percentage of cost of goods sold, which is in turn obtained from the income statement.

Purchases must be adjusted for credit purchases. This is done by deducting cash purchases. Further, credit purchases must be divided by the number of days per year to finally obtain average purchases per day.

Average credit purchases per day = Credit purchases/365

Example calculation

Assume First Parsons Company has accounts payable of $840,000 and credit purchases of $5,300,000. First Parsons Company was granted credit terms of 30 days by all its creditors. Assume there are 365 days year.

The average payment period of First Parsons Company is calculated as follows:

Firstly, we need to calculate the average credit purchases per day.

Average credit purchases per day = Credit purchases/365

= $5,300,000/365

= $14,520.55

Now, we are ready to calculate APP.

= $840,000/$14,520.55

=57.85 days

= 58 days

The APP of the First Parsons Company is 58 days. It takes on average 58 days to settle the accounts payable. However, the credit terms granted by creditors to First Parsons Company is 30 days. This means that company’s creditors require accounts to be settled within 30 days.

In light of this information, it is evident that payment of accounts payable is inadequately managed. If First Parsons Company will not attend to this issue in a timely manner, the current payment practices may lead to a number of harmful effects. Such harmful effects may include the inability to buy on credit from current suppliers, damage to the credibility of the business and a significantly deteriorating credit rating. This will be very harmful for the firm due to the further limitations it will impose on obtaining credit.

Things to note about this ratio

The average payment period analysis is only relevant when compared to credit terms granted to the business.

APP allows businesses to gain a better understanding of the cash outflows to be anticipated. Understanding of cash outflows is vital for successful operation of the business.

Average payment period analysis also identifies trends in the payment of the accounts payable. This can bring to management’s attention important variables that must be investigated to ensure successful operation of the business. For example, if the APP of the business increased from 30 to 68 days over 1 year while credit terms extended to the business remained the same at 30 days, a further investigation will be required to understand such a large increase in this ratio.

Further, to obtain a better understanding, one should compare the APP ratio to industry averages, to the ratio of leading firms in the industry and to the firm’s own historical results.

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