What is Deferred Revenue?

is deferred revenue a liability

According to cash basis accounting, you “earn” sales revenue the moment you get a cash payment, end of story. 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). Therefore, if a company collects payments https://adprun.net/easy-payroll-software-for-startups-and/ for products or services not actually delivered, the payment received cannot yet be counted as revenue. Under accrual accounting, the timing of revenue recognition and when revenue is considered “earned” is contingent on when the product/service is delivered to the customer. Each month, one-twelfth of the deferred revenue will become earned revenue.

Usually, deferred revenue will be earned within one year, so it’s shown as a short-term liability. Recognizing deferred revenue helps you avoid spending money you haven’t yet earned or misleading lenders, investors, and others who rely on your financial statements. Due to its short-term nature, deferred revenue is often expected to satisfy within the next year. Below is an example of a journal entry for three months of rent, paid in advance.

What Deferred Revenue Is in Accounting, and Why It’s a Liability

As the income is earned, the liability is decreased and recognized as income. A deferred revenue register lists income that has been promised or received but is not yet recognized as earned. Deferred revenue is listed on the balance sheet under liabilities and it to be added to the income statement later. When you’re dealing with the financials of a small business or start-up, there are a few different types of revenue that you’ll need to get to grips with, two of which are accrued and deferred revenue. When it comes to deferred revenue vs. accrued revenue, there couldn’t be any more differences, because they’re diametrically opposed to one another.

As a business earns revenue over time, the balance in the deferred revenue account is reduced and the revenue account is increased. Though it is normally classified as a current liability on the balance sheet, a deferred revenue account is sometimes listed as a long-term liability if performance or delivery is not expected within 12 months. The accounting concept known as revenue recognition states that revenue is recognized when earned. In the landscaper example, when the $200 payment was received, no landscaping services had been performed. As the landscaper performs weekly maintenance services, $50 will move from the balance sheet as deferred revenue to the income statement as earned revenue. As the fiscal year progresses, the company sends the newspaper to its customer each month and recognizes revenue.

Different Methods Under GAAP

As deferred revenue is recognized, it debits the deferred revenue account and credits your income statement. Deferred revenue is a payment from a customer for future goods or services. The seller records this payment as a liability, because it has not yet been earned. Deferred revenue is common among software and insurance providers, who require up-front payments in exchange for service periods that may last for many months. Deferred revenue is recorded as a liability on the balance sheet, and the balance sheet’s cash (asset) account is increased by the amount received.

This classification depends on how long it will take the company to earn the revenue. If services will be performed, or goods shipped, within one year, the deferred revenue is a current liability. If services will be performed, or goods shipped, over a period of more than one year, the deferred revenue is a long-term liability. By crediting the sales account and debiting the deferred revenue account, the club would record SAR 10 in revenue. Up until the end of the year, when the deferred revenue account balance would be zero, the golf club would continue to recognize SAR 10 in revenue each month. If your business uses the cash basis of accounting, you don’t have to worry about deferred revenue.

Deferred vs. recognized revenue

The deferred revenue turns into earned revenue (which is an asset) only after the customer receives the good or service. The amount customers pay you in advance for your cleaning subscription is the deferred revenue. As you perform your ACCOUNTING & PAYROLL SERVICES cleaning services, parts of the deferred revenue become earned revenue. So, if you clean for a client once per week, the amount of money equal to the weekly service becomes earned revenue after you perform the service each week.

  • For example, most lawyers are required to deposit unearned fees into an arms-length IOLTA trust account.
  • Usually, deferred revenue will be earned within one year, so it’s shown as a short-term liability.
  • Imagine a SaaS company offers a monthly plan with $10 payments and a discounted yearly plan of 99.99 to attract customers.
  • Additionally, some industries have strict rules governing how to treat deferred revenue.
  • If the good or service is then undelivered or cancelled, the company may owe the money back to the customer.
  • Categorizing deferred revenue as earned on your income statement is aggressive accounting which will overstate your sales revenue.
  • There is no difference between unearned revenue and deferred revenue because they both refer to advance payments a business receives for its products or services it’s yet to deliver or perform.

Below we dive into defining deferred revenue vs deferred expenses and how to account for both. Deferred revenue, sometimes referred to as unearned revenue, is payment your business receives for products or services that will be delivered later. Deferred revenue is money received by a company in advance of having earned it. In other words, deferred revenues are not yet revenues and therefore cannot yet be reported on the income statement. As a result, the unearned amount must be deferred to the company’s balance sheet where it will be reported as a liability. Deferred revenue is commonplace among subscription-based, recurring revenue businesses such as SaaS companies.

How does deferred revenue work under cash and accrual accounting?

Every member has “reached” the advantage of having used the club for one month at the end of the first month of membership. As a result, the golf club has met its obligation to provide golf club benefits for a complete year in one month (1/12th). Deferred revenue appears to be an asset in some situations, yet it is always classified as a liability in accounting. It also enables them to guarantee future income, which can be helpful when forecasting revenue and making long-term strategic decisions. Use Wafeq to keep all your expenses and revenues on track to run a better business. At Bench, we work with you to ensure your financial reporting needs are met while keeping you IRS compliant.

When accountants talk about “revenue recognition,” they’re talking about when and how deferred revenue gets turned into earned revenue. The standard of when revenue is recognized is called the revenue recognition principle. Gradually, as the product or service is delivered to the customers over time, the deferred revenue is recognized proportionally on the income statement.