Accrual Accounting Meaning
Accrual Accounting principle states that revenue is recognized when the sale is completed (regardless of whether it is a cash or credit sale) and expenses are matched and recognized concurrently with the corresponding revenue (regardless of when the expense is paid).
Understanding Accounting Accounting Basis
Accruals in Accounting are the expenses or revenues that have been recorded by the firm but not yet realized. The main reason for using accrual accounting is to get a fair and accurate picture of the business at any given stage. Let’s say that you, an investor, want to know where a business stands at any given point in time. So what would you want to know? You would want to know how a business is doing right now, not what a business will receive shortly. If a company is using the accrual basis of accounting, then as an investor, you won’t be in doubt – whether the current affairs of the company are the most accurate or not.
It showcases exactly what is happening in the business, not what a business will achieve shortly. For example, if a firm has sold products on credit, then it will show the same as sales even if the money is yet to be received by the company.
Another vital point is that it is applicable for businesses that are relatively medium to large and which earn a decent amount of cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. during any year.
Accrual Accounting Concepts
Let us see the usage of accrual accounting methods and practical concepts.
#1 – Accounts Payables
Difference Ltd. has salaries payableSalaries PayableSalary payable refers to the liability of the company towards its employees against the amount of salary of a period that became due but has not been paid yet to them by the company and it is shown in the balance of the company under the head liability. of $40,000. How would we treat it as per the accrual basis of accounting?
The effect of this transaction would be two dimensional. That means one needs to record this transaction in two places.
First, it would be recorded as salary expenses in the income statement. And then, it would be treated as a current liability and will be recorded on the balance sheet of the company.
Let us now look at a practical example. Below is the snapshot of Colgate’s Current LiabilitiesCurrent LiabilitiesCurrent Liabilities are the payables which are likely to settled within twelve months of reporting. They're usually salaries payable, expense payable, short term loans etc.. We note that Colgate has reported accounts payables of $1,124 million in 2016 and $1,110 million in 2015. Accounts payablesAccounts PayablesAccounts payable is the amount due by a business to its suppliers or vendors for the purchase of products or services. It is categorized as current liabilities on the balance sheet and must be satisfied within an accounting period. primarily consist of salary payables.
source: Colgate SEC Filings
#2 – Prepaid Expenses
Similar Ltd. has prepaid wages of $100,000. How would we treat it as per the accrual basis of accounting?
This transaction is the opposite of the previous example.
We will record the transaction in two places.
First, we will record it as a wage expense in the income statement. And we will also record prepaid wages under the current assets of the balance sheetCurrent Assets Of The Balance SheetCurrent assets refer to those short-term assets which can be efficiently utilized for business operations, sold for immediate cash or liquidated within a year. It comprises inventory, cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities, accounts receivable, etc..
Below is the snapshot of the Facebook Balance Sheet. We note that Facebook has reported prepaid expenses of $959 million and $659 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
source: Facebook SEC Filings
#3 – Accounts Receivables
Equal Ltd. has total sales of $10, 00,000. Out of the total sales, 60% is in cash. How would we treat this transaction under accrual accounting?
Here, 40% of sales are credit salesCredit SalesCredit Sales is a transaction type in which the customers/buyers are allowed to pay up for the bought item later on instead of paying at the exact time of purchase. It gives them the required time to collect money & make the payment. . But the credit sales will also be treated as sales, and the profit would be generated by including both the cash and credit sales and then deducting the cost of goods soldCost Of Goods SoldThe cost of goods sold (COGS) is the cumulative total of direct costs incurred for the goods or services sold, including direct expenses like raw material, direct labour cost and other direct costs. However, it excludes all the indirect expenses incurred by the company. and the operating expenses.
If it were cash accountingCash AccountingCash Accounting is an accounting methodology that registers revenues when they are received & expenditures when they are paid in the given period, thereby aiming at cash inflows & outflows. , we wouldn’t have recorded the credit sales.
Below is again an example from Colgate’s Balance Sheet. We note that Colgate has reported accounts receivablesReported Accounts ReceivablesAccounts receivables refer to the amount due on the customers for the credit sales of the products or services made by the company to them. It appears as a current asset in the corporate balance sheet. of $1,411 million on $1,427 million in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
source: Colgate SEC Filings
Accrual Accounting in Amazon
Refer to the following screenshot depicting Amazon.com’s financials.
Here, one can observe that in the Accounts receivables section, the firm has recorded some numbers. These payments that the firm expects to receive from its customers for the services or the goods delivered. But since this payment is not yet received, there is a credit risk involved as there is an element of uncertainty, and that is why the firm has also recorded Bad debt or doubtful accounts. This is a good accounting practice and helps in removing the ambiguity of the accrual-based revenues.
- It is a holistic approach: Unlike cash accounting, accrual accounting is a comprehensive accounting system. You would agree that a business is not about cash only. There are many aspects that should be taken into account. Under the accrual system, we can record all the financial transactions of businessTransactions Of BusinessA business transaction is the exchange of goods or services for cash with third parties (such as customers, vendors, etc.). The goods involved have monetary and tangible economic value, which may be recorded and presented in the company's financial statements. (cash and others), and we can also create financial statements like the income statement, balance sheet to get a more holistic view of how a company is doing overall.
- There are almost no discrepancies/errors: Since the financial transaction is immediately recorded as it occurs, there are virtually no chances of discrepancies or inaccuracies. And since everything is recorded all the time, if one wants to do an audit, the information is readily available.
- Accuracy level is higher: Unlike cash accounting, accrual accounting follows a double-entry systemDouble-entry SystemDouble Entry Accounting System is an accounting approach which states that each & every business transaction is recorded in at least 2 accounts, i.e., a Debit & a Credit. Furthermore, the number of transactions entered as the debits must be equivalent to that of the credits. . That means one account is debitedDebitedDebit is an entry in the books of accounts, which either increases the assets or decreases the liabilities. According to the double-entry system, the total debits should always be equal to the total credits. and another account is credited. As a result, we can see how one account is reduced, and another account has increased. It increases the accuracy level of accounting, and later on, during an audit, things get easier.
- Quite complex: Cash accounting is easy to record and easy to maintain. But accrual accounting is complicated to record since every time a financial transaction happens, there should be an entry in the books of accounts. And maintaining the whole accounting systemAccounting SystemAccounting systems are used by organizations to record financial information such as income, expenses, and other accounting activities. They serve as a key tool for monitoring and tracking the company's performance and ensuring the smooth operation of the firm. isn’t an easy job as well.
- Holistic but challenging to maintain: A business has different aspects. And if a business is enormous, in the single day hundreds and thousands of financial transactions need to be recorded under this accounting. Maintaining all of these every day, day after day, isn’t an easy job for an accountant.
Accrual Accounting Basis Video
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