What is Unearned Revenue?

It doesn’t matter that you have not earned the revenue, only that the cash has entered your company. According to the accounting reporting principles, unearned revenue must be recorded as a liability. In this article, I am going to go over the ins and outs of unearned revenue, when you should recognize revenue, and why it is a liability. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about accounting as I’ll illustrate everything with some examples.

Here is everything you need to know about unearned revenue and how it affects your small business. Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Double Entry Bookkeeping. He has worked as an accountant and consultant for more than 25 years and has built financial models for all types of industries. He has been the CFO or controller of both small and medium sized companies and has run small businesses of his own.

Unearned Revenue in the Books

The related account for advance payment that they received should be recognized as a liability in the balance sheet; no revenue should be recorded in the income statement yet. Under the accrual basis, revenues should only be recognized when they are earned, regardless of when the payment is received. Hence, the company should not recognize revenue for the goods or services that they have not provided yet even though the payment has already been received in advance. The first step in recording unearned revenue is to classify it correctly. This classification depends on the nature of the goods or services to be provided.

Unearned Revenue refers to customer payments collected by a company before the actual delivery of the product or service. Therefore, the accounting treatment for Unearned Revenue is such that in the case when the amount is collected from the customers, it is treated so through the following journal entry. Accounting in modern times is done based on the accrual concept of accounting which states that revenue can be recorded earlier than it is received and similarly expenses can be recorded before they actually become due.

  • Revenue is only included in the income statement when it has been earned by a business.
  • Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.
  • Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Double Entry Bookkeeping.
  • This principle states that revenues and expenses should be recognized in the financial statements that correspond to when they are earned, regardless of when payment is received.
  • A timely receipt of payment results in recording income on the financial statement; otherwise, the payment is recorded as a bad debt and documented as a negative entry on the financial statement.

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Therefore, understanding its principles for accurate recording and preparation of financial statements is necessary. An example of unearned revenue could be a software company that receives payment for a year’s worth of software updates that have yet to be provided. The company has the money, but it also must provide updates throughout the year. Until those updates are provided, the money is considered unearned revenue. For help creating balance sheets that can track unearned revenue, consider using QuickBooks Online. This accounting software offers a wide range of financial reporting capabilities, along with expense tracking and invoice features.

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It must be noted that unearned revenue is generally collected as “cash,” so one of the immediately affected accounts against the unearned revenue will be a cash account. Deferred revenue typically occurs when a company receives an advance payment for a service that will be provided in the future. In this case, the company will have a liability on the balance sheet, and it will not record the revenue until the service is provided. In this case one asset (accounts receivable) increases representing money owed by the customer, this increase is balanced by the increase in liabilities (unearned revenue account). And so, unearned revenue should not be included as income yet; rather, it is recorded as a liability. This liability represents an obligation of the company to render services or deliver goods in the future.

This adherence ensures compliance with financial regulations and helps maintain the accuracy and integrity of the company’s financial reporting. Companies need to stay updated on any changes to these regulations to ensure ongoing compliance. Visit Akounto’s Blog to get answers to all your questions like “is retained earnings an asset,” “is service revenue an asset,” “deferral in accounting,” etc. These concepts are essential for accurate recording, reporting, and analyzing financial data. ASC 606 guides companies on revenue recognition from contracts with customers, including the recognition of unearned revenue. As an investor, you’ll run into both accrued revenue and unearned revenue in your research of various companies.

So, the trainer can recognize 25 percent of unearned revenue in the books, or $500 worth of sessions. At the end of the month, the owner debits unearned revenue $400 and credits revenue $400. He does so until the three months is up and he’s accounted for the entire $1200 in income both collected and earned out.

This may include services or products that have been delivered but not invoiced, or subscriptions that have been activated but not billed. A similar situation occurs if cash is received from a customer in advance of the services being provided. This is more fully explained in our revenue received in advance journal entry example. Perhaps the biggest impact would be inaccurate financial statements, with revenue totals overstated in the month when the prepayment is received, and understated in all subsequent months.

If you provide subscriptions or services, you or your bookkeeper will likely be recording unearned revenue on a regular basis. In addition, property management companies, insurance companies, and other companies that require an advance payment frequently need to record unearned revenue. Deferred revenue, also referred to as “unearned” revenue, refers to payments received for a product or service but not yet delivered to the customer. The cash payment from the customer was therefore received in advance for an expected benefit in the near future. Per the revenue recognition principle, the company must recognize the revenue on its income statement as soon as the service was provided to customers.

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Unearned revenue can also be referred to as deferred revenue and advance payments. When the company has earned revenue, the following journal entries are made in the accounting books of the business entity. Even though unearned revenue reflects a receipt in advance, it remains a liability for a company because it now has a legal obligation to perform the duty that it had previously pledged to do.

Most or some of the business entities also venture into different other businesses besides the primary business. Similarly, many companies also invest in different securities, stocks, etc. Access a complete payments platform with simple, pay-as-you-go pricing, or contact us to design a custom package specifically for your business. In effect, we are transferring $20,000, one-third of $60,000, from the Unearned Rent Income (a liability) to Rent Income (an income account) since that portion has already been earned. The Ascent is a Motley Fool service that rates and reviews essential products for your everyday money matters.

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The statement of cash flows shows what money is flowing into or out of the company. First, since you have received cash from your clients, it appears as part of the cash and cash equivalents, which is an asset. While you have the money in hand, you still need to provide the services. This requires special bookkeeping measures to make sure you don’t forget about your customer and to keep the tax authorities happy. Baremetrics provides an easy-to-read dashboard that gives you all the key metrics for your business, including MRR, ARR, LTV, total customers, and more. Be careful with your unearned revenue, though, as tax authorities across the globe have specific requirements for recognizing unearned revenue, and flouting these rules is a good way to get audited.

Is Unearned Revenue a Liability?

Accounts Receivable and Unearned Revenue are two accounts that are accrued. Both of these revenue types are shown in the Financial Statements, regardless of the fact that they have been paid for, or not. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool’s premium services. If you are having a hard time understanding this topic, I suggest you go over and study the lesson again. Preparing adjusting entries is one of the most challenging (but important) topics for beginners.

What Is the Difference Between Accrued Revenue vs. Unearned Revenue?

We see that the cash account increases, but the unearned revenue liability account also increases. 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. Unearned revenue is what is the difference between a deferral and an accrual listed under “current liabilities.” It is part of the total current liabilities as well as total liabilities. A client purchases a package of 20 person training sessions for $2000, or $100 per session. The personal trainers enters $2000 as a debit to cash and $2000 as a credit to unearned revenue.

These operational activities generate money for the entity, which is recorded as the company’s revenues. The amount deducted from the unearned revenue account is then added to the earned revenue in the income statement. This process, known as revenue recognition, aligns the company’s revenue reporting with the delivery of goods or services.






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