The Difference Between an Accounts Receivable Ledger and Subledger

Businesses use subledgers to track money owed.
Businesses use subledgers to track money owed. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Companies use different types of ledgers to track financial information. An accounts receivable ledger is used to track all sales made on account by customers. A subledger, or subsidiary ledger, tracks details of a specific account. Every subledger has a control account tied to it. The control account tracks the account as a whole, whereas the subledger breaks the total down into categories.

Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable tracks how much money customers owe. Each time a customer purchases goods or services on account, the amount is placed into accounts receivable. When a customer makes a payment, the balance of this account decreases. The accounts receivable ledger is a special ledger that is used only to record sales on account. It is actually considered a subsidiary ledger because it contains a separate account for each customer. Each customer’s account is on a separate page, and the accounts receivable ledger provides details of each customer’s purchases and payments. At any time, the balance of a customer’s account is viewed by looking in this ledger.

Control Accounts

Accounts receivable is considered a control account. Accounts receivable contains all transactions made on account by customers, including a current balance at all times. The current balance reflects the total amount of money that is owed to the company at any given time by all customers. This control account does not give a breakdown as to who owes the money; it simply gives a total of all money owed. The balance in this account should always be equal to the balance of all totals in the accounts receivable ledger.

Accounts Payable Subledgers

Most companies also use an accounts payable subledger. This ledger tracks all amounts owed to different vendors. Each vendor has its own page in the subledger, and the accounts payable account is the control account.


The purpose of a subledger is to provide more details than a control account can provide. These ledgers help companies manage funds better and in a more controlled way. At the end of each month or period, the control account balance is always compared to the subledger’s balance to ensure that they are equal.

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