Accrual and Deferral in Accounting: Business Guide for 2024

In short, there is no receipt of cash payment for an accrual, whereas there is a payment of cash made in advance for a deferral. When you leave a comment on this article, please note that if approved, it will be publicly available and visible at the bottom of the article on this blog. For more information on how Sage uses and looks after your personal data and the data protection rights you have, please read our Privacy Policy.

  1. This method is particularly useful for businesses with long-term projects or contracts where revenue recognition may span multiple periods.
  2. Accrued revenue is income you’ve earned by providing goods or services, but haven’t yet been paid for.
  3. In accounting, a deferral refers to the postponement of recognizing certain revenues or expenses until a later accounting period.
  4. Accrual accounting involves recognizing revenue and expenses when they are incurred, regardless of when cash is exchanged.

This is done to match the recognition of these items with the period in which they are earned or incurred, aligning with the matching principle in accrual accounting. Deferral involves adjusting entries to ensure that financial statements accurately reflect the economic reality of a business. Accrual accounting involves recognizing revenue and expenses when they are incurred, regardless of when the cash is actually received or paid.

Accruals are important because they help to ensure that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its actual financial position. The purpose of accruals is to ensure that a company’s financial statements accurately reflect its true financial position. This is important because financial statements are used by a wide range of stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and regulators, to evaluate the financial health and performance of a company.

Similarly, expenses like employee salaries and wages are often listed under current liabilities and recorded as accrued expenses on a company’s balance sheet. Accrual refers to a transaction recorded on a financial statement as a debit or credit before the actual payment has been made or received. 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. Integrating accruals and deferrals into the accounting process can be critical for ensuring the successful financial management of any company. By accurately tracking and recording all expenses and revenues, businesses can gain a much more comprehensive understanding of how the company is performing, and how operations might be adjusted to facilitate further growth. When the product has already been delivered, i.e. business delivered the product or business consumed the product, but compensation was not received or paid for it, then it is considered as accrual.

Differences Between Accrual and Deferral Accounting

Others prefer the simplicity and flexibility offered by deferral-based methods. Ultimately,
the choice between these two approaches will depend on factors such as industry standards,
company size, and individual business requirements. Accrual and deferral are two fundamental concepts in accounting that play a crucial role in ensuring accurate financial reporting.

The company owes goods or services to the customer, but the cash has been received in advance. The timing of revenue and expense recognition can affect a company’s financial statements, such as the income statement and balance sheet. Accurate recognition of revenue and expenses is essential for determining profitability, cash flow, and financial position. By using the appropriate accounting method, a company can provide a more accurate representation of its financial performance and position. Accruals impact a company’s bottom line, although cash has not yet exchanged hands.

In subscription-based or prepayment business models, deferred revenue is an especially informative metric for stakeholders ranging from CFOs to investors. Paying the office rent in advance is another common example of deferred expense. Every month, the entire payment is recognized on the statement of income until it is ‘used up.’ Such a large expense cannot be accounted for in a single-monthly accounting report since it won’t then match the income. The second important principle regarding deferral accounts is the revenue recognition principle. According to the FASB, IFRS 15, the revenue recognition principle, revenue should be recognized when earned or when the performance obligation is completed. In the same way, a firm’s accountant should ensure that the expenses paid in advance of receiving the product or service should be deferred.

A cash basis will provide a snapshot of current cash status, but does not provide a way to show future expenses and liabilities as well as an accrual method. Similarly, in a cash basis of accounting, deferred expenses and revenue are not recorded. For example, if a company has performed a service for a customer but has not yet received payment, the revenue from that service would be recorded as an accrual in the company’s financial statements. This ensures that the company’s financial statements accurately reflect its true financial position, even if it has not yet received payment for all of the services it has provided.


In this context, accrual accounting involves recognizing revenues and expenses when they are earned or incurred, regardless of the actual cash flow. On the other hand, deferral accounting involves postponing the recognition of certain revenues or expenses until a later accounting period, often aligning with the timing of cash transactions. The concept of expense recognition in deferral accounting follows the matching principle as well, requiring that expenses are recognized in the same period as the revenue they helped generate. This helps ensure that financial statements accurately reflect a company’s financial position and performance. But the main difference between accrual and deferral accounting is the timing difference of revenue and expense recognition. Accrual accounting recognizes revenue and expenses before cash is exchanged, while deferral accounting recognizes them after cash is exchanged.

Why Use Deferrals?

As you complete the work each month, you’ll gradually move amounts from deferred revenue to earned revenue. Deferred expenses are the prepaid expenses yet to incur in a future period of accounting. A company should accrual vs deferral make sure that it defers the revenue it receives before delivering its product so that its statements show an accurate financial picture when everything is recorded and presented to the stakeholders for review.

Using the accrual method, an accountant makes adjustments for revenue that have been earned but are not yet recorded in the general ledger and expenses that have been incurred but are also not yet recorded. The accruals are made via adjusting journal entries at the end of each accounting period, so the reported financial statements can be inclusive of these amounts. An accrual is a record of revenue or expenses that have been earned or incurred but have not yet been recorded in the company’s financial statements.

Understanding how deferred revenue interacts with your financial statements has practical implications for managing your company’s finances and can significantly influence how external parties perceive your business. The importance of deferred revenue also extends beyond the balance sheet to other business concerns, including liquidity, regulatory compliance, and valuation. A nuanced understanding of deferred revenue can improve transparency in financial reporting and inform strategic decisions. Deferred revenue is an accounting concept that provides a snapshot of a business’s financial health and operational agility.

What’s the Difference?

While the utilization of accruals and deferrals can certainly be beneficial, the success of these methods will be highly dependent on an organization’s individual financial management and accounting processes. If the company prepares its financial statements in the fourth month after the warranty is sold to the customers, the company will report a deferred income of $4,000 ($6,000 – ($500 x 4)). Similarly, the company will report an income of $2,000 ($500 x 4) for the period. By aligning your financial planning with your chosen accounting method, you can ensure that your financial reports accurately reflect your financial position, and optimize your financial strategies for long-term success. By understanding the distinctions between accrual and deferral accounting, you can decide which method is best suited for your business.