What is a Prepaid Expense? Definition & Process

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  • What is a Prepaid Expense? Definition & Process

A few examples of common insurances are property insurance, automobile insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and product liability insurance. Depending on your line of business, you may have some or several. For certain expenses, this is the case, so there has to be a process related to how to properly record them in the company’s books. You might be wondering what type of account is a prepaid expense. As a reminder, the main types of accounts are assets, expenses, liabilities, equity, and revenue. Both prepaid and deferred expenses are advance payments, but there are differences between the two common accounting terms.

Again, the purpose of these prepaid expenses is so that the company’s financial statements are accurately reflected when the cost of the expense is providing the related benefit . The prepaid expense appears in the current assets section of the balance sheet until full consumption (i.e. the realization of benefits by the customer). A prepaid expense is an expense that has been paid for in advance but not yet incurred.

This type of expense is often paid for in advance so that the advertiser can secure ad space or time slots on television, radio, or social media. When you buy the insurance, debit the Prepaid Expense account http://kultura-detstva.ru/digr/1165855410.html to show an increase in assets. Prepaid expenses only turn into expenses when you actually use them. The value of the asset is then replaced with an actual expense recorded on the income statement.

definition of prepaid expenses

In business, a prepaid expense is recorded as an asset on the balance sheet that results from a business making advanced payments for goods or services to be received in the future. A legalretainer is often required before a lawyer or firm will begin representation. When a company pays a retainer, it is recorded as a prepaid expense on the balance sheet. It’s not expensed immediately because the company has not yet benefited from the services. As future invoices come in, the company would recognize an expense and draw down the prepaid asset by the same amount.

As we’ve covered, a prepaid expense is reported as a current asset on the balance sheet. On the other hand, an accrued expense gets recorded under current liabilities on the balance sheet. Instead, they provide value over time—generally over multiple accounting periods.

Presentation of Prepaid Expenses

Guide your business with agility by standardizing processes, automating routine work, and increasing visibility. Expenses are income statement accounts that are debited to an account, and the corresponding credit is booked to a contra asset or liability account. Cost of Goods Sold is the cost of acquiring raw materials and turning them into finished products. It does not include selling and administrative costs incurred by the whole company, nor interest expense or losses on extraordinary items. Again, anything that you pay for before using is considered a prepaid expense.

As a journalist, he has extensively covered business and tech news in the U.S. and Asia. He has produced multimedia content that has garnered billions of views worldwide. The product then automatically amortizes the expense over future periods, eliminating the need to manage spreadsheets or other manual tracking systems.

definition of prepaid expenses

Harold Averkamp has worked 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. Stand out and gain a competitive edge as a commercial banker, loan officer or credit analyst with advanced knowledge, real-world analysis skills, and career confidence. A capital asset is an asset with a useful life longer than a year that is not intended for sale in the regular course of the business’s operation. FEATURED CONTENT Guide Your guide to key F&A terms and definitions.

The initial journal entry for prepaid rent is a debit to prepaid rent and a credit to cash. When there is a payment that represents a prepayment of an expense, a prepaid account, such as Prepaid Insurance, is debited and the cash account is credited. This records the prepayment as an asset on the company’s balance sheet. An amortization schedule that corresponds to the actual incurring of the prepaid expenses or the consumption schedule for the prepaid asset is also established. Insurance is an excellent example of a prepaid expense, as it is always paid for in advance. If a company pays $12,000 for an insurance policy that covers the next 12 months, then it would record a current asset of $12,000 at the time of payment to represent this prepaid amount.

Prepaid Expenses: Definition, Accounting, Examples, Journal Entry, as Current Asset

Deferred expenses, also called deferred charges, fall in the long-term asset category. She has 10+ years of experience in the financial services and planning industry. Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts. Michael Logan is an experienced writer, producer, and editorial leader.

At the end of each accounting period, a journal entry is posted for the expense incurred over that period, according to the schedule. This journal entry credits the prepaid asset account on the balance sheet, such as Prepaid Insurance, and debits an expense account on the income statement, such as Insurance Expense. So basically in the accounting year when they are paid one current asset increases and another current asset (cash/bank) decreases . Then in the accounting year when the expense is utilized the prepaid expense account will be credited and the actual account to which such expense relates is debited. The initial journal entry for a prepaid expense does not affect a company’s financial statements.

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  • An accounting term is used to describe payments made in advance for goods or services that have not yet been received or provided.
  • Prepaid expenses are recorded first on the balance sheet—in the prepaid asset account—because it represents a future benefit due to the business.
  • This records the prepayment as an asset on the company’s balance sheet.
  • Prepaid expense amortization is the method of accounting for the consumption of a prepaid expense over time.
  • As such, understanding the difference between the two terms is necessary to report and account for costs in the most accurate way.
  • Under the matching principles of accrual accounting, revenue and expenses must be recognized in the same period.

This portion of unexpired insurance is an asset and will be shown in the balance sheet of the company. Every business has different types of assets that offer different values. One of the most important types of assets for a business is called Prepaid Expenses.

The template also contains an auto-populated roll forward schedule. Check out our most recent webinars dedicated to modern accounting. If you recently attended webinar you loved, find it here and share the link with your colleagues. Explore our schedule of upcoming webinars to find inspiration, including industry experts, strategic alliance partners, and boundary-pushing customers. BlackLine provides global product support across geographies, languages, and time zones, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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A best practice is to not record smaller expenditures into the prepaid expenses account, since it takes too much effort to track them over time. To extend this concept further, consider charging remaining balances to expense once they have been amortized down to a certain minimum level. Both of these actions should be governed by a formal accounting policy that states the threshold at which prepaid expenses are to be charged to expense. BlackLine Account Reconciliations, a full account reconciliation solution, has a prepaid amortization template to automate the process of accounting for prepaid expenses. It stores a schedule of payments for amortizable items and establishes a monthly schedule of the expenses that should be entered over the life of the prepaid items. Because of how certain goods and services are sold, most companies will have one or more prepaid expenses.

definition of prepaid expenses

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Under cash accounting, the expense is only recorded when the actual cash has been paid. Examples of prepayments include prepaid insurance, rent, salary, tax, electricity bill, and telephone bill. An accounting term is used to describe payments made in advance for goods or services that have not yet been received or provided. In most cases, the payment is for something that will be used up within a year, such as office supplies or insurance.

Both prepaid expenses and deferred expenses are important aspects of the accounting process for a business. As such, understanding the difference between the two terms is necessary to report and account for costs in the most accurate way. A prepaid expense is carried on the balance sheet of an organization as a current asset until it is consumed. The reason for the current asset designation is that most prepaid assets are consumed within a few months of their initial recordation. If a prepaid expense were likely to not be consumed within the next year, it would instead be classified on the balance sheet as a long-term asset .

Once all amortizations have been completed, verify that the total in the spreadsheet matches the total balance in the prepaid expenses account. A prepaid expense is an expenditure paid for in one accounting period, but for which the underlying asset will not be consumed until a future period. If consumed over multiple periods, there may be a series of corresponding charges to expense. According to generally accepted accounting principles , expenses should be recorded in the same accounting period as the benefit generated from the related asset. BlackLine Journal Entry is a full journal entry management system that integrates with BlackLine Account Reconciliations.


A common prepaid expense is the six-month insurance premium that is paid in advance for insurance coverage on a company’s vehicles. The amount paid is often recorded in the current asset account Prepaid Insurance. If the company issues monthly financial statements, its income statement will report Insurance Expense which is one-sixth of the six-month premium. The balance in the account Prepaid Insurance will be the amount that is still prepaid as of the date of the balance sheet. Both prepaid and deferred expenses areadvance payments, but there are some clear differences between the two common accounting terms.

In each month of the 12-month policy, the company would recognize an expense of $1,000 and draw down the prepaid asset by this same amount. The prepaid expenses are recognized because the expenses are booked in the books of accounts when they become due regardless of actual cash payment . So prepaid expense account is created to record the payment of expenses in that accounting period in which it is paid but not yet become due. After each accounting period, the journal entry is posted that reflects the portion of the expense incurred for that specific period according to the established amortization schedule. The journal entry credits the prepaid asset account and debits the expense account . A prepaid expense refers to future expenses that are paid in advance.

Also, the balance sheet shows the remaining balance as a current asset. PrepaymentPrepayment refers to paying off an expense or debt obligation before the due date. Often, companies make advance payments for expenses as well as goods and services to shed their financial burden. Examples of prepayment include loan repayment before the due date, prepaid bills, rent, salary, insurance premium, credit card bill, income tax, sales tax, line of credit, etc. Balance SheetA balance sheet is one of the financial statements of a company that presents the shareholders’ equity, liabilities, and assets of the company at a specific point in time.

Prepaid Insurance Coverage Example

That is, the photocopier will provide benefits to the company over its lifetime, not just when it is purchased, so it should be listed as an expense over the time period it does so. Some advertising payments occur after recognizing revenues related to those costs. For example, some entities assume an obligation to reimburse their customers for some or all of the customers’ advertising costs. Revenues related to the transactions creating those obligations might be recognized before the payments are made. In those circumstances, obligations should be accrued and the advertising costs expensed when the related revenues are recognized. By the end of the twelve-month coverage period, the entire insurance benefits are delivered, the total expenditure was expensed, and the corresponding asset on the balance sheet declines to zero.

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