Ask Difference

Arrearage vs. Arrears — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on March 31, 2024
Arrearage refers to the total amount of unpaid debt, emphasizing accumulation, while arrears denote the state of being behind in payments, focusing on the status.
Arrearage vs. Arrears — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Arrearage and Arrears


Key Differences

Arrearage is a financial term that refers specifically to the accumulated amount of past-due debt. It represents the total sum that has not been paid by the due date, emphasizing the backlog of unpaid financial obligations. On the other hand, arrears is used more broadly to describe the status of payments that are overdue, highlighting the condition of being behind in fulfilling financial commitments rather than the specific amount owed.
The concept of arrearage is often applied in contexts like mortgage payments, utility bills, and other forms of structured debt, where it quantifies the exact amount overdue. This term is crucial for financial institutions and creditors, as it helps in assessing the magnitude of delinquency. Whereas arrears can apply to any type of late payment and is not limited to financial debts. It can also refer to the failure to meet other types of obligations, such as work duties or the delivery of services, emphasizing the nature of the delay rather than its quantifiable aspect.
In legal and financial documentation, arrearage is a critical term because it specifies the accumulated debt that needs to be addressed or settled. Its use indicates a more detailed and specific focus, particularly in legal judgments, debt restructuring plans, or repayment agreements. Arrears, while also important in legal and financial contexts, is more commonly used to describe the state or condition of being behind in payments in a more general sense.
When discussing recovery processes or debt settlement strategies, arrearage provides a clear target for repayment plans, offering a tangible goal for individuals or entities to clear their debt. It is a term that allows for a more structured approach to resolving financial delinquencies. In contrast, being in arrears might require additional assessment to determine the total amount due, as the term primarily signals the presence of an issue with payment timeliness rather than the amount.
The impact of arrearage and arrears on credit reports and scores can be significant, but the specifics provided by arrearage can lead to more tailored resolutions with creditors. For example, knowing the total arrearage allows for negotiations that can address the entire debt, potentially leading to structured repayment plans or settlements. Being in arrears alerts to a problem but requires further analysis to formulate a comprehensive solution.

Comparison Chart


The accumulated amount of past-due debt.
The state of being behind in payments.


Used specifically in financial contexts.
Broadly applies to any type of late payment.


Emphasizes the total unpaid amount.
Highlights the status of delayed payments.

Legal and Financial Use

Specifies accumulated debt in documents and agreements.
Indicates a delay in obligations in a general sense.

Impact on Resolution

Provides a clear target for repayment strategies.
Signals a payment issue, requiring assessment of total debt.

Compare with Definitions


Accumulated unpaid debts over time.
The utility company reported an increase in customer arrearage during the economic downturn.


The state of being behind in fulfilling obligations, especially financial ones.
He fell into arrears on his car payments after losing his job.


The total amount of money that is owed and past due.
The borrower's loan arrearage amounted to several thousand dollars after missing multiple payments.


Being late in meeting work duties or deliverables.
The contractor was in arrears with the project's timeline, causing delays.


The sum of all overdue payments on an obligation.
Mortgage arrearage can lead to foreclosure if not addressed promptly.


The condition of not being up to date in obligations.
Membership benefits were suspended for those in arrears.


The outstanding balance in overdue payments.
She worked out a plan to pay off her credit card arrearage within a year.


Overdue payments on a debt or other obligation.
The landlord warned that tenants in arrears on rent might face eviction.


The backlog of unpaid child support.
The court ordered the non-custodial parent to pay the full arrearage in child support.


A delay in the payment of dues or debts.
Interest accrues on accounts that are in arrears.


The state of being behind in the fulfillment of obligations or of being overdue in payment.


Arrears (or arrearage) is a legal term for the part of a debt that is overdue after missing one or more required payments. The amount of the arrears is the amount accrued from the date on which the first missed payment was due.


A payment owed.


Plural of arrear


The condition of being in arrears.


The state of being behind in payments;
An account in arrears


An item that is in arrears, as periodic payments on a debt or for taxes.


An unpaid overdue debt


That which remains unpaid and overdue, after payment of a part; arrears.
The old arrearages . . . being defrayed.

Common Curiosities

Can non-financial obligations be in arrears?

Absolutely. The term "arrears" can apply to any delayed obligations, including work or service deliverables.

Is arrearage only applicable to financial debts?

Primarily, yes. It's used to quantify the total overdue financial debt.

Can arrearage be negotiated?

Yes, creditors may negotiate repayment of arrearage to resolve outstanding debts.

How do arrearage and arrears affect credit scores?

Both can negatively impact credit scores, but arrearage provides specifics on the amount overdue, which is crucial for resolution strategies.

Are there specific legal implications for being in arrearage vs. arrears?

Being in arrearage often leads to more specific legal actions due to the quantified debt amount, while arrears might require additional assessment.

Can one clear arrears by paying the arrearage?

Yes, paying off the arrearage would clear the state of being in arrears, as it settles the overdue amount.

What steps can be taken to avoid falling into arrears?

Timely payments, budget management, and communication with creditors are key.

How does one calculate arrearage?

By totaling all unpaid and overdue amounts up to the current date.

Can arrearage and arrears be used interchangeably?

While related, they are not fully interchangeable. Arrearage refers to the amount, whereas arrears indicate the state of delay.

Does arrearage accrue interest?

Yes, similar to arrears, arrearage can also accrue interest until paid.

Can government taxes be in arrearage?

Yes, unpaid taxes can accumulate into an arrearage.

Do both terms imply legal default?

Not necessarily default, but both indicate a failure to meet agreed-upon payment schedules.

How do creditors view arrearage versus arrears?

Creditors may view arrearage as more actionable, given it specifies the amount overdue, whereas arrears indicate the need for payment timeliness improvement.

What is the first step in addressing arrearage or arrears?

Assessing the total overdue amount and communicating with the creditor or obligee to discuss repayment options.

Is being in arrears a temporary condition?

It can be, if the overdue obligations are promptly addressed and cleared.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Newton vs. Pascal

Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms