The accrual accounting system, which records revenues and expenses when they are generated or incurred rather than when cash is received or paid, includes accounting for accruals and prepayments as a critical component. This guarantees a more accurate portrayal of a business’s financial situation and performance. Let’s look more closely at accruals and prepayments:

  • What is an accrued expense?

An accrued expense, or accrued liabilities, is an accounting term that refers to a cost recognised on the books before it has been paid. The fee is recorded in the accounting period in which it is incurred.

  • What is accrued revenue?

These revenues have been earned but not received in cash or recorded in the books. For example, if a company provides services to a customer in one month but invoices the customer at the end of the following month, the revenue would be accrued in the first month when the services were rendered.


  • Accrual accounting is essential for matching revenue and expense recognition with the corresponding period’s activities, providing a more accurate representation of a company’s financial performance and position. It contrasts with cash accounting, where transactions are only recorded when cash is received or disbursed, regardless of when the underlying revenue or expense is earned. Most businesses, especially larger ones, utilise accrual accounting to comply with accounting principles and give stakeholders a more accurate picture of their financial wealth.

  • What is a prepaid expense?

A prepaid expense is a type of asset on the balance sheet that results from a business making advanced payments for goods or services to be received in the future. Prepaid expenses are initially recorded as assets, but their value is expensed onto the income statement over time.

  • What is prepaid revenue?

This occurs when a business receives payment from a customer before providing the goods or services. It is a liability for the company because they have yet to earn revenue. As the goods are delivered or services are rendered, the penalty decreases, and the payment is recognised.

  • In both cases, as time passes or services are provided, the prepayment is gradually recognised in the income statement as an expense (prepaid expenses) or revenue (prepaid revenue). Proper accounting for prepayments is crucial to ensure accurate financial reporting and to match the costs and revenue with the periods in which they are incurred or earned.

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Article by Terence Agius