What Does the Term "Accruals" Mean in Accounting - More Than Accountants

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What Does the Term “Accruals” Mean in Accounting

One of two strategies for keeping financial records is accrual accounting. Its major characteristic is that when you make a deal, you make an entry in your books, not when money crosses hands.

Accounting definition of Accruals

Cash basis accounting and accrual basis accounting are the two basic accounting methodologies to choose from. The cash basis of accounting recognises income and expenses only when money changes hands, not before. The accrual basis of accounting, on the other hand, recognises income and expenses as soon as invoices are raised and bills are received.

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What exactly are accruals?

It’s a straightforward process. Accruals are accounting entries for expenses or revenue for which no payment has yet been received. Simply said, accruals are the foundation of the accrual accounting method. While accruals may have an influence on your company’s net income on the income statement, keep in mind that the cash hasn’t arrived yet.

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Accruals can be used for a wide range of financial operations, such as accounts receivable, payable, and payroll. Simply put, an accrual accounting entry might include any sort of revenue that has been earned but not yet recorded in the books, as well as any expenses or liabilities that have been spent but not yet recorded.

To give you an example, an accountant who practises accrual accounting counts income collected after a job is completed, even if the client has not yet paid the total bill. For example, if your firm makes a sale in June and completes the labour to complete the transaction in July, accrual accounting means that your company will record the sale in their books in June because that is when the invoice was issued.

However, you’ll need to make a few accounting modifications to guarantee that you’re following the accruals accounting idea correctly.

The same logic applies to expenses; accumulated expenses are those that have already been incurred but not yet paid.

In business terminology, a company will record any expenses as soon as they are incurred, even if the supplies have not yet been paid for. For example, your accountant may only bill you when they have completed your accounts at the end of the fiscal year. However, because your accountant’s fee is based on the financial year, it should be paid before the year closes.

Accrued revenues

Accrued revenues are income or assets (including non-cash assets) that are yet to be received. In this case, a company may provide a service or deliver goods, but on credit. Consider a contractor that issues an invoice for £1,000 at the start of the month, but is only paid 30 days later. According to accrual accounting, the revenue will be recognised when the invoice is issued, rather than when it is paid. Accrual accounting, therefore, gives the business a means of tracking its financial position more accurately by acknowledging the future income it expects to receive.

Accrued expenses

An accumulated expense is one that is recorded when it is incurred rather than when it is paid on the books. Accrued expenses are classified as a current liability on the balance sheet because they represent a company’s obligation to make future cash payments.

Interest expenses that are owed but not paid, operating expenses for goods or services from a third-party supplier, tax due, and wage or salary accruals are all examples of accumulated expenses.

Accrued expenses vs Prepaid expenses

Prepaid expenses and accrued expenses are not the same thing. Payments made in advance for products and services that are expected to be given or used in the future are known as prepaid expenses. Prepaid expenses are treated as assets on the balance sheet, whereas accrued expenses are treated as liabilities.

The advantages and disadvantages of accrual accounting


  • Provides a more realistic view of a company’s performance and financials.
  • Assists the company in making more educated financial decisions.
  • It may be easier to obtain long-term financing as a result of this (most lenders and investors will require that your financial statements are prepared according on the accrual basis).


  • It can be more difficult and need more careful monitoring of bills.
  • Prior to the consumer actually paying the amount, tax must be paid on the income. This could cause short-term cash flow problems. (Note that if your customer fails to pay the invoice, you can claim the tax back on your next tax return.)

Should I use cash or accrual accounting?

Most small firms in the United Kingdom with an annual revenue of £150,000 or less can report on a cash basis, which means they only record income and costs when they receive money or pay a bill. This implies they won’t have to pay income tax on money they haven’t received in a given accounting period. It may also make creating financial statements easier by simply glancing at the incomings and outgoings from the business bank account.

Cash accounting, on the other hand, is unlikely to be suited for businesses that want to claim interest or bank charges of more than £500 as an expense, are more complex (for example, holding large amounts of stock), or need to raise capital. It also won’t work for businesses that want to deduct losses from other taxable income.

In fact, accrual accounting would benefit many small firms, putting them in a better position for when the company grows and making it easier to accurately monitor financial success. Additionally, because certain traditional lenders will not work with enterprises that use cash accounting, accrual accounting may be able to assist them in obtaining any necessary financing.

Accrual accounting, regardless of the size of your company, usually provides a better indicator of success because it reveals when the underlying income and expenses occurred.

FURTHER READING: What Does the Term “Double Entry Bookkeeping” Mean in Accounting

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