is deferred revenue a liability

Contracts can stipulate different terms, whereby it’s possible that no revenue may be recorded until all of the services or products have been delivered. In other words, the payments collected from the customer would remain in deferred revenue until the customer has received in full what was due according to the contract. Deferred revenue is a financial concept that refers to money that has been received by a company, but has not yet been earned.

Whereas recognized revenue refers to the point at which a booking or deferred revenue becomes actual revenue for your business after delivering on the agreement as promised. As per basic accounting principles, a business should not recognize income until it has earned it, and it should not recognize expenses until it has spent them. The SaaS industry has seen an influx of deferred revenue in recent years due to the proliferation of the subscription business model and services requiring pre-payment.

The Impact of Accrual Accounting

Technically, you cannot consider deferred revenues as revenue until you earn them—you deliver the products or services prepaid. Deferred revenue is a liability because it reflects revenue that has not been earned and represents products or services that are owed to a customer. As the product or service is delivered over time, it is recognized proportionally as revenue on the income statement.

is deferred revenue a liability

GAAP accounting metrics include detailed revenue recognition rules tailored to each industry and business type. Deferred revenue is a popular concept among both businesses and customers. Botkeeper provides you with high-quality bookkeeping using human-assisted AI, plus, powerful software to watch your financials. It’s everything a business owner needs to do the bookkeeping — without actually having to DO the bookkeeping. As mentioned above, deferred revenue is considered a liability, not an asset.

Deferred Revenue Simply Explained

Generally speaking, you should be more careful spending cash from deferred revenues than regular cash. Deferrals like deferred revenue are commonly used in accounting to accurately record income and expenses in the period they actually occurred. When a legal practice charges a new client a $10,000 What Is Business Accounting? retainer fee, it isn’t immediately recorded as revenue in its books. It records it as deferred revenue first, and only records $10,000 in revenue after the entire retainer fee has been earned. But, prepayments are liabilities because it is not yet earned, and you still owe something to a customer.

When a company receives payment for goods or services that it has not yet delivered, it records the payment as deferred revenue on its balance sheet. This is because the company is obligated to deliver the goods or services in the future, and the payment represents a liability to the company until it has fulfilled its obligation. For example, a software company that sells annual subscriptions may receive payment for a year’s worth of access to its software, but it has not yet provided all of the access that the customer has paid for.

When do you need to defer revenue?

Because it is technically for goods or services still owed to your customers. And in the event of a policy dispute regarding refunds or cancellations, the money is already in the company’s account. This helps companies protect themselves from customers who may take advantage of the “try before you buy” model.

  • Deferred revenue is a short term liability account because it’s kind of like a debt however, instead of it being money you owe, it’s goods and services owed to customers.
  • Deferred revenue is a critical piece of that puzzle, and this blog clarifies what it is and why it’s reported as a liability.
  • Deferrals like deferred revenue are commonly used in accounting to accurately record income and expenses in the period they actually occurred.
  • The company would record the payment as deferred revenue on its balance sheet until it has provided all of the access that the customer has paid for.Deferred revenue can also be used in the context of a contract.
  • In accrual accounting, a liability is a future financial obligation of a company based on previous business activity.
  • For example, a contractor might use either the percentage-of-completion method or the completed contract method to recognize revenue.

The payment is considered a liability to the company because there is still the possibility that the good or service may not be delivered, or the buyer might cancel the order. In either case, the company would need to repay the customer, unless other payment terms were explicitly stated in a signed contract. So, if Company A receives the $15,000 on July 1 and begins work on July 6, they’ll record a debit of $15,000 to cash and a credit of $15,000 to deferred revenue. At this point, the balance sheet will show a current liability of $15,000. This means that Company A will need to record an adjusting entry (dated July 31) debiting deferred revenue for $10,000 and crediting the income statement for $10,000.

How to Adjust Accounts for Unearned Revenue

Some businesses offer multiple services along with their subscription model, like annual maintenance for two years. In this case, one part of the service you’re providing is fulfilled at purchase, whereas the other will be deferred. This will show that one part of your revenue is earned and another deferred, leading to accounting issues as there are multiple stages of delivery. Realizing these accounts can lead to false positives showing up in your cash-flow statements. Therefore, it is crucial to track your contract terms with your customers before realizing the revenue. In accrual-based accounting you record the revenue only after it’s earned or recognized.

Is deferred liability an asset?

There are two types of deferred tax items—one is an asset and one is a liability. One represents money the business owes (deferred tax liability), and the other represents money that the business is owed (deferred tax asset).

The remaining $150 sits on the balance sheet as deferred revenue until the software upgrades are fully delivered to the customer by the company. In each of the following examples listed above, the payment was received in advance and the benefit to the customers is expected to be delivered on a later date. Complex revenue recognition is unavoidable in any business model that employs subscription billing, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Your accounting team can focus less on repetitive, mundane tasks and redirect their attention to what matters. Deferred revenue is the revenue you expect from a booking, but you are yet to deliver on the account’s agreement. Thus, even though you received the revenue in your account, you cannot quite count it as revenue.