Chapter 6: Accruals and prepayments

Chapter 6: Accruals and prepayments

They help to avoid distortions caused by timing differences between cash flows and the recognition of revenues and expenses. Prepayments also ensure that financial statements comply with the matching principle, as they ensure that revenues and expenses are recognized in the same period as the related cash flows. The purpose of accruals is to ensure that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its true financial position. This is important because financial statements are used by a wide range of stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and regulators, to evaluate the financial health and performance of a company. Without accruals, a company’s financial statements would only reflect the cash inflows and outflows, rather than the true state of its revenues, expenses, assets, and liabilities. By recognizing revenues and expenses when they are earned or incurred, rather than only when payment is received or made, accruals provide a more accurate picture of a company’s financial position.

  1. Accruals involve estimating the revenue or expense, while prepayments involve estimating the deferral amount.
  2. However, during this period, Joe is not receiving his bonuses, as would be the case with cash received at the time of the transaction.
  3. Accrued income arises where income has been earned in the accounting period but has not yet been received.
  4. In general, cash accounting is allowed for sole proprietorships and small businesses, whereas large businesses will typically use accrual accounting when preparing its tax returns.

Prepaid expenditure increases profit on the Income statement and also creates a current asset to be included on the Statement of financial position. The expenses of the period that the business has incurred in making its sales, such as rent, electricity and telephone, must also be matched with the sales for the period. This means that the actual expense incurred in the period should be included in the income statement rather than simply the amount of the expense that has been paid in cash. For example, a company wants to accrue a $10,000 utility invoice to have the expense hit in June. The company’s June journal entry will be a debit to Utility Expense and a credit to Accrued Payables. On July 1st, the company will reverse this entry (debit to Accrued Payables, credit to Utility Expense).

For companies that are responsible for external reporting, accrued expenses play a big part in wrapping up month-end, quarter-end, or fiscal year-end processes. A company usually does not book accrued expenses during the month; instead, accrued expenses are booked during the close period. It’s important for you to know how much profit your business is making in any given month. If you receive an invoice or make a payment that covers several months, and you record it as a lump sum in one month, this can affect your profit for that month.

You need to repeat this for each month the final invoice or payment covers. As you post each monthly journal, a debit value posts to the relevant overhead account, in this example utility expense, 6400, which appears on your profit and loss. The credit value posts to the accruals account and this appears on your balance sheet as the accrual is a current liability. At the end of the accrual period, you need to reverse the effect of these postings from your accounts.

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For example, if a company receives $6,000 in advance for services to be provided over a six-month period, it would record a debit to a liability account (such as unearned revenue) and a credit to revenue. This entry defers the recognition of revenue until the services are provided. Similarly, if a company pays $3,000 in advance for rent for the next three months, it would record a debit to a prepaid expense account and a credit to cash. This entry defers the recognition of the expense until the rent is incurred.

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Upgrading to a paid membership gives you access to our extensive collection of plug-and-play Templates designed to power your performance—as well as CFI’s full course catalog and accredited Certification Programs. At 31 December 20X5, Willy calculated that he owed $1,800 in respect of electricity for the last part of the year.

Taxpayers are typically required by the appropriate taxation authority to consistently use the method of accounting that accurately captures the entity’s true income. Consistency is essential since the swapping of accounting methods can potentially create loopholes that a company can use to manipulate its revenue and reduce tax burdens. In general, cash accounting is allowed for sole proprietorships and small businesses, whereas large businesses will typically use accrual accounting when preparing its tax returns. Under cash accounting, income and expenses are recorded when cash is received and paid.


In contrast, accrual accounting does not directly consider when cash is received or paid. Since accruals involve recognizing revenues or expenses before the actual cash flow occurs, they require judgment and estimation. For example, a company may accrue for sales revenue that has been earned but not yet billed to customers. The amount of the accrual is based on an estimate of the revenue earned during the period. Similarly, accruals for expenses, such as salaries or utilities, are based on estimates of the amount incurred during the period. Accrual accounting measures a company’s performance and position by recognizing economic events regardless of when cash transactions occur, whereas cash accounting only records transactions when payment occurs.

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In accounting, accruals broadly fall under either revenues (receivables) or expenses (payables). Prepaid income arises where income has been received in the accounting period but which relates to the next accounting period. Accrued income arises where income has been earned in the accounting period accounting for accruals and prepayments but has not yet been received. Accrued expenditure will reduce profit in the Income statement and will also create a current liability on the Statement of financial position. In both cases, your cash account balance will offset the accrual whenever you make or receive the payment in the future.

In this example, you’d post these journals for January, February, and March. This article has hopefully illustrated the importance of accruals and prepayments as adjustments in the general ledger. Both scenarios have resulted in the same figures on the statements P/L for electricity and rent received regardless of the actual bank payments/receipts in the period. If companies received cash payments for all revenues at the same time those revenues were earned, there wouldn’t be a need for accruals.

Accruals impact a company’s bottom line, although cash has not yet exchanged hands. Accruals are important because they help to ensure that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its actual financial position. While accruals and prepayments serve similar purposes in adjusting financial statements, there are several key differences between the two. By deferring the recognition of revenues or expenses, prepayments ensure that financial statements accurately reflect the timing of cash flows.

An accrual is a record of revenue or expenses that have been earned or incurred but have not yet been recorded in the company’s financial statements. This can include things like unpaid invoices for services provided, or expenses that have been incurred but not yet paid. Lastly, both accruals and prepayments are reversed in the following accounting period to ensure that the financial statements only include transactions that occurred during that period. This reversal entry prevents double-counting of revenues or expenses in subsequent periods. One key attribute of prepayments is that they are also based on estimates.

When the company pays out Joe’s owed bonus, the transaction will be recorded by debiting its liability account and crediting its cash account. The purpose of accrual accounting is to match revenues and expenses to the time periods during which they were recognized and incurred, as opposed to the timing of the actual cash flows related to them. A company pays its employees’ salaries on the first day of the following month for services received in the prior month. If on Dec. 31, the company’s income statement recognizes only the salary payments that have been made, the accrued expenses from the employees’ services for December will be omitted.

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