What is Deferred Revenue Definition & Examples

financial modeling

Once the product or service has been provided then the company can reduce the liability and recognize the revenue. When you receive the money, you will debit it to your cash account because the amount of cash your business has increased. And, you will credit your deferred revenue account because the amount of deferred revenue is increasing. Deferred revenue refers to payments customers give you before you provide them with a good or service. Deferred revenue is common in businesses where customers pay a retainer to guarantee services or prepay for a subscription. Deferred revenue is sometimes called unearned revenue, deferred income, or unearned income.

  • No revenue or income is recorded on the income statement on Jan. 1 because the company hasn’t performed any of its design services yet.
  • But what is deferred revenue in accounting and how does it apply to your business?
  • For example, annual subscription payments you receive at the beginning of the year or rent payments you receive in advance.
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Second, deferred revenue can create a discrepancy between the time when the company receives the money and when it recognizes the income. This can make it difficult to compare the company's financial statements from one period to another. Deferred revenue is money received by a company in advance of having earned it. In other words, deferred revenues are not yet revenues and therefore cannot yet be reported on the income statement. As a result, the unearned amount must be deferred to the company's balance sheet where it will be reported as a liability. Consider a media company that receives $1,200 in advance payment at the beginning of its fiscal year from a customer for an annual newspaper subscription.


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. The remaining obligations by the company are to provide the products/services to customers. GAAP, deferred revenue is treated as a liability on the balance sheet since the revenue recognition requirements are incomplete. That said, deferred revenue can also be a liability in the sense that you have been paid for something or expect to be paid for something which you have not yet delivered. Therefore, depending on how you look at it, deferred revenue can be classed as both an asset and a liability. Deferred revenue is often used as a measure of cash flow because it includes money owed by customers that has not yet been invoiced and therefore cannot be used toward day-to-day operations.

ASC 606 provides the latest revenue recognition guidance for such companies. In all subsequent months, cash from operations would be $0 as each $100 increment in net income would be offset by a corresponding $100 decrease in current liabilities . Assuming all else stays the same, here’s the full annual overview of the total balances of cash, deferred revenue, and revenue for the architecture firm. Many service-based industries, including consulting, architecture, engineering, law, and marketing may require an upfront payment to secure delivery of services.

Deferred revenue appears as a liability in a company's accounts, as the company has a legal obligation to provide the goods or services to the customer in the future. Once the customer receives what they've paid for, the amount can be recorded as sales or service revenue. For example a magazine company that receives £120 for an annual subscription will record a debit entry to the cash and cash equivalent account, and a credit entry to the deferred revenue for £120. By the end of the year the entire balance of £120 is reversed and booked as revenue on the income statement.


By deferring some revenue, a company can even out its cash flow and make its financials look steadier and more predictable. At this stage, you will need to update the journal entry in the previous step by reducing the balance sheet liability and transferring the amount to the income statement. As the delivery of the magazines take place, a portion of revenue is recognized, and the deferred liability account is reduced for the amount of the revenue.

Now let's assume that on December 27, the design company receives the $30,000 and it will begin the project on January 4. Therefore, on December 27, the design company will record a debit of $30,000 to Cash and a credit of $30,000 to Deferred Revenues. On December 31, its balance sheet will report a current liability of $30,000 with the description Deferred revenues. On August 31, the company would record revenue of $100 on the income statement. On the balance sheet, cash would be unaffected, and the deferred revenue liability would be reduced by $100. Deferred revenue is typically a good thing as long as you’re able to deliver the goods and services that you owe your customers.

How to calculate deferred revenue

Asset An asset is anything you own that you expect to make or save you money in the future. Balance Sheet In accounting, the balance sheet definition refers to the financial statement that reports… The amount customers pay you in advance for your cleaning subscription is the deferred revenue. As you perform your cleaning services, parts of the deferred revenue become earned revenue.

On Monday, you can recognize $2 in revenue on your income statement for the first cup of coffee because you’ve made good on the promise and earned it. The deferred revenue on the balance sheet is now $8 because you still owe the lawyer four cups of coffee to complete your obligation. On Tuesday, you can realize another $2 in revenue for the second cup of coffee – Now, you owe three final cups for a total of $6. If things go smoothly, by Friday you’ve handed over five cups of coffee to the lawyer and cleared your obligation to her. The initial $10 in deferred revenue on the balance sheet has now all moved over to $10 of recognized revenue on the income statement. To record the funds that you receive, the deferred journal entry debits the bank account.

  • Deferred revenue, which is sometimes referred to as unearned revenue, is a term used to describe advance payments that businesses receive for services or products that haven’t yet been delivered.
  • For example, a policyholder may pay upfront for six months or a year at a time.
  • On Monday, you can recognize $2 in revenue on your income statement for the first cup of coffee because you’ve made good on the promise and earned it.
  • On August 1, the company would record a revenue of $0 on the income statement.

Most subscription and support services are issued with annual terms resulting in deferred income. The remaining $150 sits on the balance sheet as deferred revenue until the software upgrades are fully delivered to the customer by the company. A future transaction comes with numerous unpredictable variables, so as a conservative measure, revenue is recognized only once actually earned (i.e. the product/service is delivered). Deferred Revenueis all amounts received in advance of performance and not yet recognized as revenue.

What is Deferred Revenue (Definition & Examples)

Deferred revenue is commonplace among subscription-based, recurring revenue businesses such as SaaS companies. When you receive money for a service or product you don't fulfill at the point of purchase, you cannot count it as real revenue but deferred revenue. Since it represents products or services you owe your customers, you will record it as a liability. As the recipient earns revenue over time, it reduces the balance in the deferred revenue account and increases the balance in the revenue account . A company records deferred revenue on its balance sheet as a liability. It is typically referred to as a contractual liability, deferred revenue, or unearned revenue because the company hasn’t yet earned that money and still owes the goods or services to the customer.


Liabilities are caused by various commercial circumstances, all of which are connected to instances in which a firm owes money to another entity. The seller records the cash deposit as a deferred revenue, which is reported as a liability on the balance sheet until the revenue is earned. To understand deferred revenue in a little more depth, let’s look at an example. Imagine that a landscaping company – Company A – has been asked to provide landscaping design services for a commercial property.

Where have you heard about deferred revenue?

Instead, you will record the payment as a liability on your balance sheet. Understanding the basics of accounting is vital to any business’s success. Under the accrual basis of accounting, recording deferred revenues and expenses can help match income and expenses to when they are earned or incurred. This helps business owners more accurately evaluate the income statement and understand the profitability of an accounting period.

accounting principles

This is because the company has received the money but has not yet earned it. Second, it means that the company will recognize income in future periods when it earns the revenue, rather than in the period when it receives the money. Deferred revenue is recognized as income when it is earned, which is usually when the company provides the service or product. For example, if a company sells a one-year subscription to a software service for $120, it will recognize $10 of deferred revenue each month as the service is provided. Therefore, it will record an adjusting entry dated January 31 that will debit Deferred Revenues for $20,000 and will credit the income statement account Design Revenues for $20,000. Thus, the January 31 balance sheet will report Deferred revenues of $10,000 (the company's remaining obligation/liability from the $30,000 it received on December 27).

The deferred income, while others may be required to do so after all the products and services are delivered. In such cases, this may lead to varied net profits/losses reported by the Company. The Company may have a period of high profits , followed by periods of low profits. Operating Activities includes cash received from Sales, cash expenses paid for direct costs as well as payment is done for funding working capital. Therefore, if a company collects payments for products or services not actually delivered, the payment received cannot yet be counted as revenue. Revenue Revenue , also known as turnover, is the total amount of money that a business has taken in…

This ensures that you record all revenue for delivered work on the profit and loss statement. Like deferred revenue, accrued expenses only apply to companies that use accrual basis accounting. Cash basis companies don’t record expenses until they pay the vendor. As soon as the goods or services are delivered or performed, the deferred revenue turns into the earned revenue. In comparison, accounts receivable (A/R) is essentially the opposite of deferred revenue, as the company has already delivered the products/services to the customer who paid on credit. Unlike accounts receivable (A/R), deferred revenue is classified as a liability, since the company received cash payments upfront and has unfulfilled obligations to its customers.

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May not like such variable and volatile performance; hence, revenue is reported when earned and not paid. Deferred Revenuemeans the amount of long or short term deferred revenue of Holdings and its Restricted Subsidiaries, on a consolidated basis, determined in accordance with GAAP. This does not include any sales tax collected from customers that have not been remitted to the government yet. Revenue that meets those criteria would be classified as an asset because it is expected to be collected in full and on time. Below is an example of a journal entry for three months of rent, paid in advance.

It’s also important to note that in most cases, deferred revenue should be reported as a current liability, as prepayment terms tend to be for less than 12 months. There are a few challenges that can arise when accounting for deferred revenue. First, it can be difficult to estimate the amount of revenue that will be earned in future periods. This is because the company may not know how many customers will use the service or how long they will use it for.

The club would credit SAR 120 in deferred revenue and debit SAR 120 in cash. The deferred expenditure is listed as an asset on the balance sheet of the business (e.g., prepaid rent). The cash account receives a credit for the same amount while that account is debited. Understanding liabilities is crucial for comprehending deferred revenue accounting.

On August 1, the company would record a revenue of $0 on the income statement. On the balance sheet, cash would increase by $1,200, and a liability called deferred revenue of $1,200 would be created. The company records this difference as deferred income tax as a liability on its balance sheet.

Money received but not yet earned is referred to as deferred revenue. In other words, the products or services for which payment has been received will be provided at some time in the future. As a consequence, the client is owed what was purchased by the business, and payment can be returned before delivery.

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This provides a more accurate picture of your financial health and performance. Increases in deferred revenue may indicate that company earnings will be increasing as additional services are performed or goods are shipped. A decrease in deferred revenue may indicate that a company does not have as much work as it did in past years.

Such payments are not realized as revenue and do not affect the net profit or loss. As the Company starts delivering these magazines, it will realize them from unearned revenue liability to assets. Unearned RevenueUnearned revenue is the advance payment received by the firm for goods or services that have yet to be delivered. In other words, it comprises the amount received for the goods delivery that will take place at a future date. But what is deferred revenue in accounting and how does it apply to your business?

When a budgeting report gives you an advance payment, you will increase your deferred revenue account. As you deliver goods or services, your deferred revenue account will decrease. But, prepayments are liabilities because it is not yet earned, and you still owe something to a customer.

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