Deferred Revenue Understand Deferred Revenues in Accounting

deferred revenue on balance sheet

In other words, deferred revenue is revenue that is recognized on the balance sheet before it is earned. Therefore, it will record an adjusting entry dated January 31 that will debit Deferred Revenues for $20,000 and will credit the income statement account Design Revenues for $20,000. Thus, the January 31 balance sheet will report Deferred revenues of $10,000 (the company’s remaining obligation/liability from the $30,000 it received on December 27). It’s best practice to recognize revenue as it’s earned and track customer behaviour with a customer aging report.

  • As you deliver goods or services, your deferred revenue account will decrease.
  • Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) require certain accounting methods and conventions that encourage accounting conservatism.
  • The design company states that it can complete the new website for $70,000.
  • Deferred revenue is money received by a company in advance of having earned it.
  • In each of the following examples listed above, the payment was received in advance and the benefit to the customers is expected to be delivered on a later date.
  • Corporate Finance Institute provides great examples of deferred revenue on a balance sheet.
  • Due to the incomplete nature of the revenue recognition process in accrual accounting, deferred revenue, also known as unearned revenue, is recorded as a liability on the balance sheet.

When a company receives payment for goods or services that it has not yet delivered, it records the payment as deferred revenue on its balance sheet. This is because the company is obligated to deliver the goods or services in the future, and the payment represents a liability to the company until it has fulfilled its obligation. For example, a software company that sells annual subscriptions may receive payment for a year’s worth of access to its software, but it has not yet provided all of the access that the customer has paid for. The company would record the payment as deferred revenue on its balance sheet until it has provided all of the access that the customer has paid for.Deferred revenue can also be used in the context of a contract.

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It represents future revenue streams for the company and can impact financial reporting and cash flow. By properly accounting for deferred revenue and managing it effectively, companies can make informed decisions and maintain the health of their business. That means that revenue is recognized as “earned” only when service/product delivery happens as promised. Categorizing deferred revenue as earned on your income statement is aggressive accounting which will overstate your sales revenue. Gradually, as the product or service is delivered to the customers over time, the deferred revenue is recognized proportionally on the income statement.

deferred revenue on balance sheet

Deferred revenue is recognized as a liability on the balance sheet of a company that receives an advance payment. This is because it has an obligation to the customer in the form of the products or services owed. The payment is considered a liability to the company because there is still the possibility that the good or service may not be delivered, or the buyer might cancel the order. In either case, the company would need to repay the customer, unless other payment terms were explicitly stated in a signed contract. 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.

Deferred vs. recognized revenue

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It’s reported as a current liability if it’s expected to be earned within the next 12 months, or as a long-term liability if it’s expected to be earned after 12 months. By the end of the six-month license period, the entire $1,000 of unearned revenue will have been recognized as earned revenue, and the unearned revenue balance on the balance sheet will be zero. In the event that the order is cancelled or cannot be delivered according to the original plan (ex. natural disaster, supply chain shortages, bankruptcy), the company must repay the customer their prepayment. Revenue is also taxed in the same period that it’s recognized, so if there’s even a slight chance you’ll have to repay the customer, it’s best to defer the revenue until the goods/services are delivered. Following US GAAP guidelines for accounting conservatism, companies must defer revenue anytime there is a delay between when the customer pays and when the obligation is fulfilled.

Invoiced: Automated A/R revenue insights at your fingertips

That’s why many organizations rely on automated A/R collection platforms to streamline the tracking and reporting of these unrealized payments. When you purchase a can of soda from a vending machine, there is very little delay between the delivery of goods and payment for services. For multi-year contracts or retainers, however, the gap between delivery and payment can be quite large, creating a challenge when recording the related income on a company balance sheet. However, others may make a distinction between the two terms by referring to deferred revenue as money that has been received and unearned income as money that is expected but not yet received. Accrual accounting is an accounting system that records revenues and expenses when earned or incurred, regardless of when payment is received or made. Since this type of revenue is not immediately recognized, it is known as deferred revenue.

When building a financial model, analysts may use historical deferred revenue trends to forecast future revenue growth potential. A simple example of a deferred revenue journal entry could look like this. We will use the example of a $1200 subscription spread out across one year. Below is an example of a journal entry for three months of rent, paid in advance.


Understanding the basics of accounting is vital to any business’s success. Under the accrual basis of accounting, recording deferred revenues and expenses can help match income and law firm bookkeeping 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.

deferred revenue on balance sheet

You will later move them in portions from your balance sheet accounts to revenues (or expenses) on your income statement. Accrued revenue refers to goods or services you provided to the customer, but for which you have not yet received payment. Most of the time, accountants will list this revenue with “accounts receivable” on their balance sheet at the time of the transaction. This can be (and often is) done before cash payment has been received, and usually before an invoice has been raised. While deferred revenue is recorded as a liability on the balance sheet, unearned income is simply an entry in a company’s general ledger. According to these accounting principles, it is instead reported as a liability on the balance sheet until the goods or services are delivered, and the revenue can be recognized.

Example How to account for deferred revenue from an annual subscription

So, after 3 months, you will have $300 in earned revenue and $900 in deferred revenue. By now, we should have mapped all the financial statement entries for our deferred revenue model. Choosing the right accounting strategy for your business and accurately recording these transactions is critical to your company’s financial health. In fact, various accounting practices and standards have been developed over time just to keep these records consistent across organizations. If you’re interested in discovering more about accrued revenue, deferred revenue, or any aspect of your business finances, then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

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