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Prepare Deferred Revenue Journal Entries

July 21, 2023
Bill Kimball

This provides a more accurate picture of your financial health and performance. Note that the last entry above is the first time that it affects the profit and loss statement. However, deferred revenue can also create problems if it is not managed carefully. If you overdo it, you may misrepresent your earnings and violate accounting rules.

deferred revenue journal entry

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. The visual below gives an example of how the company would record a $10,000 prepayment for work to be performed next month. The company would debit cash for the $10,000 received and credit deferred revenue, which is a liability (remember that a credit to deferred revenue increases the liability). 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.

With Patriot’s small business accounting software, you can quickly add entries and view reports. To help you understand deferred revenue, here’s a deferred income example. The projects typically cost $100,000, and the company collects an initial deposit of $1,000 to start scheduling the work. Once the work has started, the company collects an additional 50% of the purchase price.

As you deliver goods or perform services, parts of the deferred revenue become earned revenue. For example, if you charge a customer $1,200 for 12 months of services, $100 per month will turn into earned revenue while the remaining amount will still be deferred revenue. So, after 3 months, you will have $300 in earned revenue and $900 in deferred revenue. 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. You need to understand how to recognize your revenue and record it on the profit and loss statement to do accounting properly.

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Bringing in a professional can free up your time and help you get organized books all year round. The initial receipt of deferred revenue is straightforward since you’ve received revenue you have not earned yet. Determining when the revenue has been earned can be trickier and should be done with caution. In the example above, the company would record a cleaning expense each month (i.e. $500). Recognizing revenue gradually helps companies match their expenses to the revenue they are actually earning.

Accounts receivable, or AR, represents income from products and services delivered but for which payment has not been received. In other words, AR is credited when revenue is earned but not received, and as money is realized AR is debited and cash balance credited. While deferred revenue is classified as a liability, accounts receivable is an asset on the balance sheet until payment is actually received. When you receive the money, you will debit it to your cash account because the amount of cash your business has increased. And, you will credit your deferred revenue account because the amount of deferred revenue is increasing. For businesses that provide services rather than goods, there are instances in which deferred revenue becomes realized over time instead of all at once.

deferred revenue journal entry

Let’s take a look at a small IT consultancy firm that contracts its services to clients on a subscription basis. These 12-month subscriptions cost $500 per month, billed as a one-time $6,000 fee. Notice how, with deferred expenses, cash is considered a liability, whereas the deferred expense is considered an asset.

How to record deferred revenue

Rent payments received in advance or annual subscription payments received at the beginning of the year are common examples of deferred revenue. But, prepayments are liabilities because it is not yet earned, and you still owe something to a customer. The deferred revenue turns into earned revenue (which is an asset) only after the customer receives the good or service. When it is recognized (because your company has delivered), it is proportionally recorded as revenue on your income statement. Recording deferred revenue means creating a debit to your assets and credit to your liabilities. As deferred revenue is recognized, it debits the deferred revenue account and credits your income statement.

  • Recognizing revenue gradually helps companies match their expenses to the revenue they are actually earning.
  • However, deferred revenue can also create problems if it is not managed carefully.
  • It’s important to review the deferred revenue account on a monthly basis.
  • You will record deferred revenue on your business balance sheet as a liability, not an asset.
  • If you overdo it, you may misrepresent your earnings and violate accounting rules.

Deferred revenue can also be used as an accounting tool to smooth out bumps in income or expenses. By deferring some revenue, a company can even out its cash flow and make its financials look steadier and more predictable. Because it is technically for goods or services still owed to your customers. Customers can purchase a six-month subscription to get a discounted rate. They pay you the full amount at the beginning of the six-month period, and you perform the services over the six months.


For the sake of example, let’s take a sole proprietor jeweler specializing in custom necklaces. A customer orders a custom necklace and is charged the final amount upon placing the order. In simplest terms, deferred revenue is revenue earned before rendering goods or services.

Deferred revenue is listed as a liability on a company’s balance sheet. Xendoo offers online bookkeeping, accounting, tax, and CFO services at a range of pricing plans. You can also schedule a free, no obligation 20-minute consultation with one of our accountants to learn more about Xendoo and how we can help you with all your business finance needs. When a company fulfills its obligation by providing goods or services, it recognizes the revenue. When this happens, it reduces the deferred revenue amount and increases the company’s revenue. Note that neither of the entries above will affect the profit and loss statement.

How to Record a Deferred Revenue Journal Entry

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 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.

A client signs a yearlong service contract for a one-time upfront payment with the company. As the landscaper continually renders services over the contract period, equivalent parts of the payment become realized on the income statement. As mentioned, deferred revenue is money that a company has received but hasn’t earned yet.

deferred revenue journal entry

Sign up to get a custom quote today for FinancePal’s professional financial services. If your small business operates on an asynchronous fulfillment model, you need to acquaint yourself with deferred revenue and how to report it. Deferred revenue applies to companies that use accrual basis accounting. This method accounts for revenue when a company performs the services.

Deferred revenue increases your company’s short-term liabilities. It’s important for a company to understand its future obligations and ensure that it has funds to provide the services or products. Each month, one-twelfth of the deferred revenue will become earned revenue.

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However, if a client delivers an upfront payment for a multi-year deal, the resulting deferred revenue becomes a long-term liability. Companies that use cash basis accounting do not have deferred revenue. In cash basis accounting, a company considers the money it receives as revenue when it receives it.

The amount customers pay you in advance for your cleaning subscription is the deferred revenue. As you perform your 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.

When goods or services are delivered, deferred revenue becomes revenue. Deferred expenses, similar to prepaid expenses, refer to expenses that have been paid but not yet incurred by the business. Common prepaid expenses may include monthly rent or insurance payments that have been paid in advance. When a customer gives you an advance payment, you will increase your deferred revenue account. As you deliver goods or services, your deferred revenue account will decrease. You will record deferred revenue on your business balance sheet as a liability, not an asset.

The initial recording of deferred revenue only affects the balance sheet. Recording deposits as deferred revenue prevents companies from paying taxes on revenue that has not yet been earned. For example, if you offer a refundable deposit and a client cancels a project, you’ll have to return the funds. You don’t want to pay taxes on that deposit, since you had to return it. The company will not record the money as revenue until services are performed or goods are delivered. On the other hand, accrued expenses are expenses that a company records before they’ve made a payment.

Businesses that provide subscription-based services routinely have to record deferred revenue. For example, a gym that requires an up-front annual fee must defer the amounts received and recognize them over the course of the year, as services are provided. Or, a monthly magazine charges an annual up-front subscription and then provides a dozen magazines over the following 12-month period. To record a deferred revenue journal entry, you first need to create a deferred revenue liability account. These accounts are generally current liabilities unless you expect the project to take several years. Like deferred revenues, deferred expenses are not reported on the income statement.

Deferred revenue is also known as prepaid revenue or unearned revenue. In this example, the company would record the following journal entries for deferred revenue. For this reason, companies need to exercise caution when recognizing deferred revenue. Make sure that you manage it transparently and stay compliant with accounting standards. However, you don’t have to manage all the ins and outs of accounting or deferred revenue on your own.