What Is Deferred Revenue? Learn How It Works

Deferred Revenue

BDO Center for Accounting and SEC Matters Your one stop for accounting guidance, financial reporting insights, and regulatory hot topics. For example, in 2019 Apple reported it had $8.1 billion in deferred revenue, which is actually down from $8.8 billion in 2018. As contracts mature though, the tech titan said it expects to be able to recognize 68% of that deferred revenue over the next year. An alternative approach for valuing deferred revenue is the top-down approach. The top-down approach is based on taking the market price of the deferred component and subtracting costs which have already been performed and profit on those activities. The top-down approach is often used to measure the fair value of remaining post-contract support for software. If you don’t successfully provide the deliverables, or the deliverables don’t satisfy the client-subscription terms, the company is at risk of losing that income altogether, along with the customer.

Deferred Revenue

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. Assuming that all revenue is liquid cash can be a dangerous habit to get into, especially when less than satisfied customers start asking for refunds. By accounting for both accrued and deferred revenue properly, you can maintain a healthy cash flow and prevent your business from spending money that is not yet yours to spend. While cash from deferred revenues might sit in your bank account just like cash from earned revenues, the two are not the same.

Why Should Deferred Revenue Be Seen As A Liability?

These standards follow the same 5-step rules for a revenue to be recognized. Whenever the service has been performed , your income will be recognized on your balance sheet by decreasing the liability account and increasing the asset one. Both deferred revenue and unearned revenue are terms used interchangeably.

As a whole, this updated guidance will allow organizations to better communicate their value and understand the value of acquisition targets. Organizations should evaluate their unique circumstances and consult with accounting professionals to determine the appropriate date to adopt the standard. Reduction in non-GAAP pro forma adjustments to GAAP financial statements.


The financial statements are key to both financial modeling and accounting. Deferred revenue is a liability on a company’s balance sheet that represents a prepayment by its customers for goods or services that have yet to be delivered. You can set up how each of your products is recognized and decide if you want the process fully or semi-automated. It then pushes back the deferred revenue balance back into your general ledger software. Having an accounting tool for your startup / scaleup with a revenue recognition feature will streamline your financial reporting obligations.

Anastasia Hinojosa is an experienced financial accountant with degrees from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Columbia University. Accounting Seed’s innovative software lets you run your entire back office in one environment by tapping into the power of the Salesforce platform. Utilize the full functionality of your existing Salesforce CRM or simply use Accounting Seed as a stand-alone product.

For a SaaS business founder, it is crucial to understand how deferred revenue works because dealing with subscription revenue is a crucial part of SaaS accounting. If you go to a store and buy a computer with cash, everything happens at once for both you and the shopkeeper. In one instance, the shopkeeper receives the cash owed and has earned the revenue. Deferred revenue is a liability, so it appears on the balance sheet. Usually, deferred revenue will be earned within one year, so it’s shown as a short-term liability. Deferred Revenuemeans all amounts received in advance of performance under maintenance contracts and not yet recognized as revenue. Deferred Revenueis all amounts received in advance of performance under a contract and not yet recognized as revenue.

What Is Deferred Revenue And Why Is It A Liability?

In either case, the company would need to repay the customer, unless other payment terms were explicitly stated in a signed contract. As the recipient earns revenue over time, it reduces the balance in the deferred revenue account and increases the balance in the revenue account . When a company uses the accrual accounting method, revenue is only recognized as earned when money is received from a buyer, and the goods or services are delivered to the buyer. When a company accrues deferred revenue, it is because a buyer or customer paid in advance for a good or service that is to be delivered at some future date. Deferred revenue is typically reported as a current liability on a company’s balance sheet, as prepayment terms are typically for 12 months or less. Deferred revenue, also known as unearned revenue or unearned income, is a payment from a customer for a service or a product that has not been provided yet. Deferred revenue is a liability on the company’s balance sheet because the company owes someone that product or service.

  • Due to the lag between the purchase and its delivery, deferred revenue is also called unearned revenue.
  • Accountants use the term “revenue recognition” to identify and report how much of the deferred revenue is recognized.
  • After adoption of this ASU, an entity will generally account for deferred revenue as if it had originated the contract, resulting in no deferred revenue ‘haircuts’ at the date of acquisition.
  • Early in the year, CEO Elon Musk told investors he expected the business to be profitable in Q1.

The entry is reported on the balance sheet as a liability until the customer has received the goods or services rendered. It’s also good practice to generate cash flow statements to best understand how deferred revenue affects cash going in and out of your business.

More Definitions Of Deferred Revenue

As you work through this post keep in mind that deferred revenue, which is also referred to as unearned revenue, represents a liability to the company. When a customer gives you an advance payment, you will increase your deferred revenue account. As you deliver goods or services, your deferred revenue account will decrease. In comparison, accounts receivable (A/R) is essentially the opposite of deferred revenue, as the company has already delivered and products/services to the customer who paid on credit. When you receive the payment, it will need to be recorded in the deferred revenue account since you have yet to provide the services for which your client has paid.

When a legal practice charges a new client a $10,000 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. The balance sheet is one of the three fundamental financial statements.

If you don’t deliver the agreed-upon good or service, or your customer is unhappy with the end product, your deferred revenues could be at risk. Generally speaking, you should be more careful spending cash from deferred revenues than regular cash. 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. While saas deferred revenue accounting can be done using spreadsheets, it usually takes a lot of time and is fastidious.

What Is Deferred Revenue In A Saas Or Subscription Business?

You collect $350 on March 1 but don’t complete their bookkeeping or deliver their financial statements for March until the end of April. If the client cancels their service before you perform the work, you have to return their money.

Deferred Revenue

Customers who purchased this package have received the onboard computer and all the required hardware already built into their Tesla vehicles. To date, the software to run this feature is still in development, but when it’s ready, the software will be installed over the air—essentially beamed into the already-installed vehicular operating systems. The first half of the year continued to be problematic, and the business recorded a $689 million operating loss after Q2. This year has seen its share of ups and downs for automotive giant Tesla. Early in the year, CEO Elon Musk told investors he expected the business to be profitable in Q1.

Identify The Time Frame Within Which A Product Will Be Delivered

Even though the concept of deferred revenue is pretty straightforward , in application, it can get complex for subscription-based businesses. NetSuite Revenue Management automatically recognizes revenue based on a defined schedule or trigger event – in accordance with IFRS-15, ASC606 and other accounting standards. By knowing exactly when your deferred revenue from your clients will be recognized, you get a clear picture of your revenue in the future.

  • As the fiscal year progresses, the company sends the newspaper to its customer each month and recognizes revenue.
  • This misleads your investors to believe that you’re growing when the reality is something different.
  • The adjustment might include a review of the revenues to ensure that all incomes are well accounted for and put in right categories.
  • Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts.
  • Since most prepaid contracts are less than one year long, deferred revenue is generally a current liability.

Compensation may impact the order in which offers appear on page, but our editorial opinions and ratings are not influenced by compensation. Harold Averkamp has worked Deferred Revenue as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. He is the sole author of all the materials on AccountingCoach.com.

https://www.bookstime.com/ impacts your financial statements differently. The simple explanation is that you owe your client services, as they have paid you for services that you have not yet rendered. A liability is something you owe, and even if you owe services, it is still something owed. This can be anything from a 30-year mortgage on an office building to the bills you need to pay in the next 30 days. If you want a refresher on all the basic accounting jargon, we have you covered.

Why Does Deferred Revenue Matter?

Once the expected goods and services are however delivered, the real income value can be accounted for. In this situation, a company receives money for goods and services it is yet to provide.

Since you haven’t delivered on all the website support throughout the year yet, you should classify the support fee separately in your contract, and only recognize that revenue as you earn it. At Bench, we work with you to ensure your financial reporting needs are met while keeping you IRS compliant. We do this by automatically importing all of your business transactions into our platform for your personal bookkeeper to categorize and review. They’re available to you by message or appointment to go over your books and review key information. Free Financial Modeling Guide A Complete Guide to Financial Modeling This resource is designed to be the best free guide to financial modeling! A cash flow Statement contains information on how much cash a company generated and used during a given period.

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