Deferred Revenue Accounting, Definition, Example

Deferred revenue accounting can be complex, but there are some best practices that can help you stay on top of it. Of the $1,000 sale price, we’ll assume $850 of the sale is allocated to the laptop sale, while the remaining $50 is attributable to the customer’s contractual right to future software upgrades. You then discover that the schedule was incorrect,
so you unearn and then correctly re-earn the invoice revenue. When
you re-earn revenue on invoices with non-deferred revenue scheduling
rules, Receivables uses the original schedule, as illustrated by the
February 2 row.

It’s important to keep accurate records of all your deferred revenue transactions. This includes the amount of the transaction, the date it was received, and the date the revenue is expected to be recognized. If a company has a large amount of deferred revenue on its balance sheet, it can indicate that there are future rebate adjustment sample clauses sales that have already been secured. This can be a positive sign for investors as it suggests that the company has a steady stream of revenue coming in. After the services are delivered, the revenue can be recognized with the following journal entry, where the liability decreases while the revenue increases.

Example of Deferred Revenue:

Since deferred revenues are not considered revenue until they are earned, they are not reported on the income statement. The initial journal entry will be a debit to the cash account and credit to the unearned revenue account. Deferred revenue is a liability because it reflects revenue that has not been earned and represents products or services that are owed to a customer.

  • Since the good or service has not been delivered or performed, a company still technically owes its customer the promised good or service, and the revenue cannot yet be considered earned.
  • Also, such taxpayers can treat inventory as nonincidental materials and supplies and avoid the rules of Secs.
  • In it, income and expenses are recorded as they occur, regardless of whether the cash has been received.
  • In addition to the services mentioned above, any deposit collected from a customer in advance should be considered deferred revenue and recorded as such.
  • However, if the business model requires customers to make payments in advance for several years, the portion to be delivered beyond the initial twelve months is classified as a “non-current” liability.

Imagine that a landscaping company – Company A – has been asked to provide landscaping design services for a commercial property. Company A provides a quote for $20,000, splitting the fee up into $15,000 at the time that the contract is signed and $5,000 upon completion of the project. Company A estimates that the project will take around 50 days and agrees to begin work 5 days after they receive the down payment of $15,000. Deferred revenue accounting is important for accurate reporting of assets and liabilities on a business’s balance sheet in accordance with the matching concept. Deferred revenue helps apply the universal principle in accrual accounting — matching concept. It presupposes that businesses report (or literary match) revenues and their related expenses in the same accounting period.

The entire amount would be recorded as deferred revenue, with an additional journal entry needed to record September rent. When you invoice a customer for goods and services and your customer pays immediately, that is considered cash revenue which is recognized immediately. Deferred revenue is important for any business, even small businesses with limited financial activity. Let’s say your cleaning business receives a $10,000 prepayment from one of its customers to pay for the entire year up front. In addition to the services mentioned above, any deposit collected from a customer in advance should be considered deferred revenue and recorded as such.

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Accrued revenue is recognized as earned revenue on the income statement and is reported as an asset on the balance sheet. Deferred revenue, also known as unearned revenue, is the revenue that is received in advance of providing the related goods or services. The revenue isn’t recognized as earned until the goods or services are provided. Deferred revenue is reported on the balance sheet as a liability until it’s earned.

As the services are provided, the deferred revenue liability is reduced on the debit side, and the earned revenue is recognized. As the fiscal year progresses, the company sends the newspaper to its customer each month and recognizes revenue. Monthly, the accountant records a debit entry to the deferred revenue account, and a credit entry to the sales revenue account for $100. By the end of the fiscal year, the entire deferred revenue balance of $1,200 has been gradually booked as revenue on the income statement at the rate of $100 per month.

Buyers and sellers would be wise to work together and bring more certainty to their intended tax treatment for unearned revenue for purposes of both tax and target working capital. So, if Company A receives the $15,000 on July 1 and begins work on July 6, they’ll record a debit of $15,000 to cash and a credit of $15,000 to deferred revenue. This means that Company A will need to record an adjusting entry (dated July 31) debiting deferred revenue for $10,000 and crediting the income statement for $10,000. Therefore, the July 31 balance sheet will report deferred revenues of $5,000, which represent the remaining liability from the original down payment of $15,000. Accrued revenue, on the other hand, is revenue that has been earned but not yet received. This occurs when goods or services have been provided, but the customer hasn’t yet paid for them.


Let us look at a detailed example of the accounting entries a company makes when deferred revenue is created and then reversed or earned. Next month, when the company has performed one month of the bookkeeping service, it can record $500 ($3,000/6) as revenue. For example, on September 28, 2020, the company ABC Ltd. received the $3,000 cash pre-payment for the six-month bookkeeping service from its client. Since a rent payment is for the right to reside in the building for a calendar month, revenue from rent can’t be considered ‘earned’ until that month has been reached. The average monthly gross payment for rent he receives from all tenants total is $8,000.

Why would a business defer expenses or revenue?

As well, expenses in cash basis accounting are recorded only when they are paid. On August 1, the company would record a revenue of $0 on the income statement. On the balance sheet, cash would increase by $1,200, and a liability called deferred revenue of $1,200 would be created. In this journal entry,  the company recognizes $500 of revenue for the bookkeeping service the company has performed in October 2020. Likewise, the remaining balance of deferred revenue for the bookkeeping service here will be $2,500 (3,000 – 500). On September 1, you’ll need to record the first month’s rent as revenue, with the balance remaining in deferred revenue until the following month.

Upon delivery of the good or performance of the service to the customer, the deferred revenue is reduced by the amount of the good or service and reclassified as an asset. Deferred revenue is an accrual account used to accurately report a company’s balance sheet. 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.

Ecommerce Automation Software: Automation Tools for Your Business

Rent payments received in advance or annual subscription payments received at the beginning of the year are common examples of deferred revenue. Under the accrual basis of accounting, recording deferred revenues and expenses can help match income and expenses to when they are earned or incurred. This helps business owners more accurately evaluate the income statement and understand the profitability of an accounting period. Below we dive into defining deferred revenue vs deferred expenses and how to account for both. Consider a media company that receives $1,200 in advance payment at the beginning of its fiscal year from a customer for an annual newspaper subscription.

What Is a Deferral in Accounting?

The simple answer is that they are required to, due to the accounting principles of revenue recognition. In accrual accounting, they are considered liabilities, or a reverse prepaid expense, as the company owes either the cash paid or the goods/services ordered. In the tax and accounting world, deferred revenue refers to the payments a business receives from its customers before they’re actually earned, meaning the prepaid goods and services haven’t been provided yet.

While most of your tenants pay their rent monthly, there is one tenant who pays the entire year’s rent in advance. You receive a check in the amount of $12,000 on August 15, which you deposit immediately even though their lease does not begin until September. Now let’s take a look at how we would record the above transactions in terms of Debits and Credits.

This entry reduces the deferred revenue by the monthly fee of $1,250 while recognizing the revenue for January in the appropriate revenue account. This journal entry will need to be repeated for the next five months until the entire amount of deferred revenue has been properly recognized. This can lead to inaccurate financial statements and misrepresent the company’s financial performance. Over the course of the six-month period, the company will recognize $833.33 of earned revenue each month until the full $5,000 of deferred revenue is recognized as earned revenue. In all subsequent months, cash from operations would be $0 as each $100 increment in net income would be offset by a corresponding $100 decrease in current liabilities (the deferred revenue account).

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