What is a Discount on Notes Payable?

Definition: A discount on notes payable occurs when the note’s face value is greater than its carrying value. The difference between the greater face value and the lesser carrying value is considered the discount. It represents the added interest that must be paid over the life of the note.

There are many examples of discounted note, but zero interest notes are most common. These notes are called zero interest, but they do carry an implicit interest rate figured into the face value of the note. Let’s take a look at an example.


For example, a bank might loan a business $9,000 with a 10-year, $10,000 zero interest note. This means the company borrows $9,000 from the bank and must pay back $10,000 over the course of 10 years. The $1,000 difference between the amount received and the amount owed is considered the discount. It also represents the amount of interest the company is paying the bank to borrow the $9,000 principle. In this situation, a stated rate of interest isn’t needed. The interest is built into the loan agreement and principle.

Discounted notes use the discount on notes payable account to record the discount and keep track of it was the note is repaid. The discount account is a contra liability account with a debit balance that reduces the recorded face value of the note to the actual amount received. As the note is paid off, the discount account will be amortized to interest expense over the life of the note.

What Does Discount on Notes Payable Mean?

In our earlier example, the company would debit cash for $9,000, credit notes payable for $10,000, and debit discount on notes payable for $1,000. The $1,000 discount is reported with the note on the balance sheet to reduce its carrying price to the $9,000 amount borrowed.