Accrual vs Deferral- Meaning, Top Differences, Infographics

deferral vs accrual accounting

By accounting for revenue earned or expenses paid, in advance of the transaction, businesses gain a much more accurate, forward-looking view of their finances, which can inform operational adjustments and decision-making. In six months, half of the payment will be recognized as the paid expense or cash outflow, and the rest will still be recorded as a receivable from the insurance company. The deferred expense account will be empty at the end of the period until the following advance payment occurs. 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. An expense deferral is an adjusting entry that pushes the recognition of an expense to a future fiscal period because payment for the expense was made prior to the recognition of the related revenue or prior to receiving the item.

The accrual of an expense or an expense accrual refers to the reporting of an expense and the related liability in an accounting period that is prior to the period when the amount will be paid or the vendor’s invoice will be processed. 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. 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. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) require businesses to recognize revenue when it’s earned and expenses as they’re incurred. Often, however, the timing of a payment may differ from when it’s received or an expense is made, so accrual and deferral methods are used to adhere to accounting principles. The same applies to the revenue received by the company before it delivers the product or service.

Fiscal Close

This can misguide a potential investor into believing that his money will also be safe with the company in the future, given the amount of revenue it owns. A deferral refers to the entries on a general ledger that reflect revenue and expenses incurred in a later accounting period. Deferred revenues are generated before the service or delivery of goods before a contract is completed, and the deferred expenses are paid for before receiving the full benefit in return.

deferral vs accrual accounting

Similarly, expenses like employee salaries and wages are often listed under current liabilities and recorded as accrued expenses on a company’s balance sheet. Under the expense recognition principles of accrual accounting, expenses are recorded in the period in which they were incurred and not paid. If a company incurs an expense in one period but will not pay the expense until the following period, the expense is recorded as a liability on the company’s balance sheet in the form of an accrued expense.

Example of a Revenue Deferral

Similarly, when a company makes a payment for goods or services in advance of receiving them, such as prepaying six months of insurance coverage, it would initially record a deferred expense for five months’ worth of payments. Accruals refer earned revenues and expenses that have an impact on financial records. On the other hand, deferrals refer to the payment of an expense incurred during a certain reporting period but are reported in another reporting period. For instance, a service that should be provided for six months may be paid in full in the first month.

deferral vs accrual accounting

This approach helps highlight how much sales are contributing to long-term growth and profitability. For example, a client may pay you an annual retainer in advance that you draw against when services are used. It would be recorded instead as a current liability with income being reported as revenue when services are provided. An example of expense accrual might be an emergency repair you need to make due to a pipe break. You would hire the plumber to fix the leak, but not pay until you receive an invoice in a later month, for example.


For example, using the cash method, an eCommerce company would likely look extremely profitable during the holiday selling season in the fourth quarter but look unprofitable during the first quarter once the holiday rush ends. In cash accounting, you would recognize the revenue when it comes in (during accruals and deferrals Q4) but not the expense for the products you purchased until you paid for them, which might not be until Q1 of the following year. Using the accrual method, you would account for the expense needed in pursuit of revenue. An accrual system recognizes revenue in the income statement before it’s received.

  • Second, by establishing liabilities for unearned revenue and assets for prepaid expenses, deferrals create a better picture of a business’s financial health.
  • Deferrals help smooth inconsistent swings in financial results from cash received or paid in advance of the goods and services being provided, as illustrated in the previous linen supply company example.
  • The accrual of an expense or an expense accrual refers to the reporting of an expense and the related liability in an accounting period that is prior to the period when the amount will be paid or the vendor’s invoice will be processed.
  • This can be (and often is) done before cash payment has been received, and usually before an invoice has been raised.
  • In the case of a prepayment, a company’s goods or services will be delivered or performed in a future period.
  • Much like with accruals, deferrals will almost always be recorded using the journal entry accounting method.

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