On the other hand, accruals involve recording revenue or expense before the actual cash is obtained or paid. The recognition occurs in the accounting period when the income or expense occurs. In accounting, a deferral refers to postponing the recording of certain revenues or expenses in the financial statements. It is a mechanism used to match the recognition of revenues and expenses with the period in which they are incurred or earned, following the accrual basis of accounting. On the other hand, the accruals principle states that revenues and expenses should be recognized when earned or incurred, regardless of the timing of cash inflows or outflows.

This helps align a company’s books and financial statements more accurately, matching the service or goods with their related revenue. That is why deferrals are important for the company’s compliance with the IFRS and the GAAP. Deferred expenses, also known as deferred charges, fall in the long-term asset category. Full consumption of a deferred expense will be years after the initial purchase is made. The other company involved in a prepayment situation would record their advance cash outlay as a prepaid expense, an asset account, on their balance sheet. The other company recognizes their prepaid amount as an expense over time at the same rate as the first company recognizes earned revenue.

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Deferred revenue is typically reported as a current liability on a company’s balance sheet, as prepayment terms are typically for 12 months or less. For example, a company receives an annual software license fee paid out by a customer upfront on the January 1. So, the company using accrual accounting adds only welcoming accountable voices in education five months’ worth (5/12) of the fee to its revenues in profit and loss for the fiscal year the fee was received. The rest is added to deferred income (liability) on the balance sheet for that year. A deferral of revenues or a revenue deferral involves money that was received in advance of earning it.

If your business charges for annual subscriptions, this calls for deferral revenue transactions. Money that you receive upfront for annual subscriptions will be deferred and then recognized on a monthly basis as you deliver the services until the subscription has been used up. A deferred payment is a financial arrangement where a customer is allowed to pay for goods or services at a later date rather than at the point of sale.

Business owners may need to record a deferral transaction whenever a portion of revenue or expense should be applied at a later date. Expenses are deferred to a balance sheet asset account until the expenses are used up, expired, or matched with revenues. At that time they will be moved to an expense on the income statement.

Investopedia states that deferral is an accounting technique that stops companies from recognizing some income or expenses on their financial statements. It has a massive role in making sure a company’s financial position and performance are displayed correctly over time. For instance, revenue recognition from a sale may be delayed until all services or goods are supplied. This is often used when there is a time gap between cash received and goods/services provided. Since deferred revenues are not considered revenue until they are earned, they are not reported on the income statement. As the income is earned, the liability is decreased and recognized as income.


The first, deferred revenue, is considered a liability because usually a service needs to be performed or a product must be delivered before the amount can be realized. This would happen if a customer paid for a product upfront with the guarantee that the company will deliver in the future. It is often considered a liability because it is considered cash in the company’s pocket that does not have to be paid yet. Often times this extra cash can be put into short term securities to earn extra for the company.

Note that Photo Subscription Deferred Revenue is a liability and is recorded on the balance sheet as such. When a customer pays for a year’s subscription, the publisher can’t record the full payment as revenue immediately because the magazines have not yet been delivered. Debits and credits are used in a company’s bookkeeping in order for its books to balance. Debits increase asset or expense accounts and decrease liability, revenue or equity accounts. It will result in one business classifying the amount involved as a deferred expense, the other as deferred revenue. Revenue and expense deferrals can significantly impact the financial statements, which are then used by the internal management and external stakeholders to make important business decisions.

What Exactly is a Deferral?

The magazine is called “Film Reel” and it is a national entertainment magazine. It focuses on content related to movies that are about to be released into cinemas. Deferring is a good option when one has trouble making outright payments. If you are looking to defer your monthly installments for the loan, then you may do so without worrying about the impact on your credit score. It’s important to make adjustments at regular intervals to accurately show financial statements. With practice and attention to detail, you can master this process and improve your financial management skills.

Example of a Revenue Deferral

The company sends the newspaper monthly and recognizes revenue of $83.3 in its monthly income statement. The deferred revenue is gradually booked so that by the end of the current period, the balance of the deferred revenue account is $0. Under the cash basis of accounting, deferred revenue and expenses are not recorded because income and expenses are recorded as the cash comes in or goes out. This makes the accounting easier, but isn’t so great for matching income and expenses. Learn more about choosing the accrual vs. cash basis method for income and expenses. An example of an expense accrual is the electricity that is used in December where neither the bill nor the payment will be processed until January.

Accounting conservatism ensures the company is reporting the lowest possible profit. A company reporting revenue conservatively will only recognize earned revenue when it has completed certain tasks to have full claim to the money and once the likelihood of payment is certain. However, it’s crucial to distinguish deferred payment from deferred revenue.

But when companies and businesses make payments in advance, accountants defer the expenses and revenue until they can be recorded on the financial statements. A deferral accounts for expenses that have been prepaid, or early receipt of revenues. In other words, it is payment made or payment received for products or services not yet provided.

So, this could be a disadvantage of deferring a payment in this kind of scheme. Having understood the concepts of deferred revenue and deferred expense, let us now move on to the next section. For example, companies may defer revenue if they get paid for goods or services in advance.

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The December electricity should be recorded as of December 31 with an accrual adjusting entry that debits Electricity Expense and credits a liability account such as Accrued Expenses Payable. Even though you’ve paid the cash upfront, you wouldn’t recognize the entire amount as an expense in January under the deferral principle. This is because you haven’t yet received the full year’s worth of insurance coverage. Instead, you would record the payment as a prepaid expense—an asset—and then gradually recognize a portion of it as an expense each month. By the end of the year, you would have recognized the entire prepaid amount as an insurance expense.

The amount not yet expired should be reported as a current asset, such as prepaid insurance or prepaid expenses. Insurance expenses should be reported as the balance expiring in an accounting year. When payment is received in advance for a service or product, the accountant records the amount as a debit entry to the cash and cash equivalent account and as a credit entry to the deferred revenue account.

Rather than recognizing the cost right away, they can defer it over time by changing its prepaid expenses account every month. Deferred accounts and deferred revenue let a company’s financial books show a better picture of the assets and liabilities to the customers, internal management, and external stakeholders. And that is why deferral accounts are very important for GAAP and IFRS compliance. A deferral relates to a financial transaction amount paid or received, while the related service has not yet been performed or received. The purpose of an accounting deferral is to match the revenue or expense to the period the service is performed.

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