Accrual Basis of Accounting- A Significant Financial Concept

Accrual Basis of Accounting- A Significant Financial Concept

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Chanchal
Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content
Updated on Dec 28, 2023 12:22 IST

The accrual basis of accounting records revenues and expenses when they are incurred, regardless of when cash transactions occur. Unlike the cash basis, which records transactions when cash is exchanged, the accrual basis provides a more accurate financial picture of a company’s health during specific periods. Accrual accounting offers a realistic financial outlook, aiding in better decision-making and ensuring compliance with reporting standards.

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The accrual basis of Accounting establishes a company’s revenue and corresponding costs when earned, not when money is transferred. This suggests that businesses report revenue when earned rather than when the business receives the funds. Additionally, costs are calculated based on when the business assumes the liability for them rather than when it pays them.

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What is the Accrual Basis of Accounting?

An accrual basis of accounting is when transactions are recorded in the books of accounts the moment they occur. The payment of that particular transaction has yet to be received or made. By recording revenue as soon as it is made and expenses as they are incurred, the accrual basis of accounting accurately matches income with the expense and produces a more accurate picture of the company’s financial status.

Accrual accounting clarifies the relationship between revenue and expenses, offering better insights into profitability. Also, it provides a more accurate picture of a company’s assets and liabilities on the balance sheet. Due to this, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandates accrual basis accounting as the sole technique that complies with GAAP and is used by publicly traded corporations.

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How Does Accrual Accounting Work?

If we talk about the general principle of accrual accounting is that general accounting is goods and services. Entries can also be made for debt payments. Accrual accounting works by recording accruals for cash events. This has made it the norm for accounting firms, except for individuals and small businesses.

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Example of Accrual Accounting

In some instances, the accrual approach mandates the use of estimations. A business should, for instance, record an expense for predicted bad debts that still need to be incurred. So doing results in an income statement that accurately depicts the outcomes of operations since all costs associated with a revenue transaction are reported concurrently with the revenue. Similar estimates for sales allowances, obsolete inventories, and product returns can be made. These projections could be significantly off, resulting in substantially incorrect financial statements. Consequently, while assessing accrued expenses, great care must be taken.

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Benefits of Accrual Accounting

1. It is easy to manage resources and funds

With accrual accounting, organizations can manage their current resources and make plans more efficiently since they receive immediate feedback on their anticipated cash inflows and outflows. Investors and lenders might require this approach, and even if it isn’t, the consistency of critical data could give your company the appearance of being more reliable and raise your chances of getting funding. Additionally, accrual accounting ensures that you comply with GAAP, which is a best practice and can be crucial in the future.

2. It provided a more accurate picture than the cash accounting process.

Unlike cash accounting, accrual-based accounting lets you see a complete picture of your business finances. This is because you track receivables and payables rather than just money already dedicated or deposited from your account. 

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3. It allows tax savings for depreciation

While businesses that use accrual accounting incur tax liability for sales earlier, they may be able to take advantage of depreciation to save money on taxes over the long term.  

Selling goods on credit and the projects that provide revenue after so long affect the company’s financial position during a transaction. Therefore, the transactions should be recorded in the financial statement in the same reporting period whenever the transaction occurs. 

  1. Various companies prefer accrual accounting because it offers more accurate information about company finances. 
  2. When you use this method, you can also show reports to investors and lenders this method.
  3. The use of accrual accounting makes your transactions GAAP compliant, which is an excellent practice and can become vital down the line. 
  4. It is convenient for the business to plan its current assets and plans since companies that use the accrual accounting concept receive instant feedback on their anticipated cash inflows and outflows.

Note: Accrual accounting offers more accurate information than cost accounting, but most small companies use cost accounting due to less involvement of less confusion. 

Difference Between Cash and Accrual Basis of Accounting

Aspect

Cash Basis of Accounting

Accrual Basis of Accounting

Timing of Revenue and Expense Recognition

Revenue and expenses are recognized when cash is received or paid.

Revenue and expenses are recognized when they are earned or incurred, regardless of cash flow.

Complexity

Simpler and more straightforward, suitable for small businesses.

More complex, providing a more accurate picture of financial performance.

Financial Reporting

Can be misleading about a company’s health, as it doesn’t show money owed or due in the future.

Gives a more accurate picture of long-term financial health by including receivables and payables.

Suitability

Ideal for small businesses with minimal inventory and simple operations.

Preferred for larger businesses with more complex operations and those required to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Cash Flow

Provides a clear picture of actual cash in hand.

While it shows profit and loss, it may not accurately reflect cash flow.



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Conclusion

The accrual accounting system credits and debits payments and expenses as soon as they are earned. Unlike cash accounting, which tracks and pays for expenses as they occur, accrual accounting records and pays for costs in advance. Accrual accounting uses double accounting, where there is generally accounting used when entering a transaction. This method is more accurate than cash accounting as it records the movement of capital through a company and assists accountants in preparing the financial statement. 

FAQs

What is accrual basis accounting?

Accrual basis accounting records income and expenses when they are earned or incurred, rather than when cash is exchanged, providing a more accurate financial picture.

Why is accrual accounting important?

It reflects a company's financial performance more accurately by matching revenues with related expenses, aiding in better financial analysis and decision-making.

Can you provide an example of accrual accounting?

Certainly, when a business invoices a client for services provided in December but doesn't receive payment until January, it records the revenue in December, aligning with the accrual basis of accounting.

How does accrual accounting differ from cash basis accounting?

Unlike cash basis accounting, which records transactions only when cash changes hands, accrual accounting records them when they occur, offering a more comprehensive financial perspective.

Are there any specific industries or businesses where accrual accounting is more suitable?

Accrual accounting is generally preferred for businesses with complex transactions or those that rely on credit sales, as it offers a clearer long-term financial outlook.

About the Author
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Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content

Chanchal is a creative and enthusiastic content creator who enjoys writing research-driven, audience-specific and engaging content. Her curiosity for learning and exploring makes her a suitable writer for a variety ... Read Full Bio

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