A Small Business Guide to Unearned Revenue

unearned revenue accounting

Which means it will initially go under your liability account. Every month, once James receives his mystery boxes, Beeker’s will remove $40 from unearned revenue and convert it to revenue instead, as James is now in possession of the goods he purchased. At the end of the six months, all unearned revenue has converted into revenue, since all money received accounts for the six mystery boxes that have been paid for.

Why is unearned revenue important?

Unearned Revenue Basics

Customers often receive discounts for paying in advance for goods or services. Unearned revenue is an important concept in accounting because the company cannot recognize the revenue until it provides the good or service to the customer who paid for it.

If it is a monthly publication, as each periodical is delivered, the liability or unearned revenue is reduced by $100 ($1,200 divided by 12 months) while revenue is increased by the same amount. An airline that receives advance payment for tickets should also record the transactions as unearned revenue. Similarly, professional service providers such as accounting, legal, and contracting firms that accept deposits should record them as unearned revenue.

Reporting Unearned Revenue

This is why unearned revenue is recorded as an equal decrease in unearned revenue and increase in revenue . Record to report is a finance and accounting management process that involves collecting, processing, analyzing, validating, organizing, and finally reporting accurate financial data. R2R process provides strategic, financial, and operational feedback on the performance of the organization to inform management and external stakeholders. R2R process also covers the steps involved in preparing and reporting on the overall accounts. In most of the automated financial systems, you can define more than 12 accounting periods in a financial year. This article will explain the concept of the adjustment period and the benefits of having adjustment periods. Adjustment periods have their inherent challenges for the users of financial statements and there is a workaround for those who don’t want to use adjustment periods.

What is another name for unearned revenue?

Unearned revenue, sometimes referred to as deferred revenue, is payment received by a company from a customer for products or services that will be delivered at some point in the future.

From the date of initial payment, the payment is recorded as revenue on a monthly basis until the entirety of the promised benefits is confirmed to have been received by the customer. Since most prepaid contracts are less than one year long, unearned revenue is generally a current liability. Deferred revenue affects the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows differently. According to the accounting reporting principles, unearned revenue must be recorded as a liability.

When Is Unearned Revenue Recognized?

At that point, the unearned revenue amount of current liabilities would drop by $7,500, and the cash could then be listed as a current asset instead using an adjusting journal entry. However, each accounting period, you will transfer part of the unearned revenue account into the revenue account as you fulfill that part of the contract.

  • Under the liability method, you initially enter unearned revenue in your books as a cash account debit and an unearned revenue account credit.
  • For example, Western Plowing might have instead elected to recognize the unearned revenue based on the assumption that it will plow for ABC 20 times over the course of the winter.
  • The amount of the payment left unapplied, once the cart is submitted, is tracked as an unapplied or open credit amount.
  • If the product or service is delivered incrementally instead of all at once, then revenue should be recognized equal to the amount of goods being exchanged.
  • When a customer prepays for a service, your business will need to adjust its unearned revenue balance sheet and journal entries.
  • In such cases, the unearned revenue will appear as a long-term liability on the balance sheet.

In our example of ABC Company’s pallets, two months after the customer pays, the pallets are produced and delivered to the customer. To recognize the revenue now that it is earned, you will do an adjusting entry to move the money from unearned revenue to sales revenue. Many businesses receive revenue before they actually provide a good or service. This is called unearned revenue; it is classified as a liability until the good or service is produced. The revenue is transferred from the unearned revenue to the earned revenue account (i.e. sales revenue) once the product or service has been delivered to the customer. Since prepaid revenue is a liability for the business, its initial entry is a credit to an unearned revenue account and a debit to the cash account. The above entries are recorded following revenue recognition.


Once the business actually provides the goods or services, an adjusting entry is made. The unearned revenue account will be debited and the service revenues account will be credited the same amount, according to Accounting Coach. Unearned revenue is treated as a short- or long-term liability on a company’s balance sheet, based on the nature of the entry and underlying business contract. This type of adjusting entry will be adjusted by another entry as and when the revenue will be earned to recognize revenue and offset the deferred revenue. The balance of the money paid early will remain in the unearned revenue account and should only be recognized as the goods and services are provided each month. For most businesses where prepayment terms are 12 months or less, unearned revenue is treated as a current liability on the balance sheet.

unearned revenue accounting

Adjusting entries are used to recognize the revenue, in essence move it to a revenue account, when the money is earned by providing the goods or service. In cases like insurance and subscriptions, the revenue is recognized on a monthly basis.

Scenarios in which the Unearned Income account is used

For more on the accrued revenue concept, see Accrued Revenue. Double-entry System explains the underlying principles in double-entry accounting. Unearned revenues turn up in many familiar purchase situations. But, you can’t always count on your clients to pay you on-time. In fact, according to a study from Freelancer’s Union, 71% of freelancers have trouble getting paid at some point in their careers. Staxpayments.com needs to review the security of your connection before proceeding. You can earn college credit for up to 5 courses per month and the classes are similar in difficulty to a university.

  • The debit and credit are of the same amount, the standard in double-entry bookkeeping.
  • The liability converts to an asset over time as the business delivers the product or service.
  • The Shareholders’ Equity Statement on the balance sheet details the change in the value of shareholder’s equity from the beginning to the end of an accounting period.
  • In automated systems, you can define rules that can determine the event which triggers the revenue recognition.
  • This article explains what a general ledger is and some of its major functionalities.
  • With unearned revenue on the cash flow statement, you get a sense of the immediate future.

This is necessary as the Accounts Payable package will record the entry to cash. It is important to use the same Refund Clearing account when recording the payable through the Accounts Payable package. That way the entries to Refund Clearing, the one generated by iMIS and the one used to record the payable or payment issued, will offset and net to zero. Perhaps a payment was received that was either greater than the items to be purchased or for which it is unclear what the payment should be applied to. These payments can still be recorded in iMIS as an overpayment or a prepayment, depending upon the scenario. The amount of the payment left unapplied, once the cart is submitted, is tracked as an unapplied or open credit amount. When a paid invoice is reversed , then the payment becomes fully or partially unapplied and the unapplied portion of the payment is represented as an unearned income liability.

One of the greatest benefits of using a double-entry accounting system is the capability to generate a trial balance. As the name suggests a trial balance is a report that must have what is unearned revenue its debits equals to credits. Understand the importance of trial balance and why it is balanced. That’s considered unearned revenue, and there’s a special way to record it.

Once the project is delivered, an adjusting entry must be made. This means you’ll debit the unearned revenue account by $2,000 and credit the revenue account by $2,000. Unearned revenue or deferred revenue is considered a liability in a business, as it is a debt owed to customers. It is classified as a current liability until the goods or services have https://www.bookstime.com/ been delivered to the customer, after which it must be converted into revenue. Another example involves the manufacturing of a physical product. ABC Company receives $25,000 for 1,000 pallets to be delivered in two months. This entry books the $25,000 received as unearned revenue because the company has not produced or provided the pallets yet.


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