In this case, the company ABC Ltd. needs to account for the $4,500 advance payment that is received from the client as the unearned revenue because it has not performed service for the client yet. Once, the company fulfills its obligation by providing the goods or services to the customers, it can make the journal entry to transfer the unearned revenue to the revenue as below. Unearned revenue is a common type of accounting issue, particularly in service-based industries. By treating it as a liability for accounting purposes, you can keep the books balanced.

There are certain exceptions to this rule, including interest earned on municipal bonds, which is exempt from federal income tax. In this case, the company will have to repay the cash to the customer unless there is a revision in the contract between them to keep the contract as it is. 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.

Initially, the total amount of cash proceeds received is not allowed to be recorded as revenue, despite the cash being in the possession of the company. Examples include interest on investments, dividends, lottery or casino winnings, and rental income from investment properties. Earned income, on the other hand, is any compensation you receive for providing a service.

Unearned revenue in cash accounting and accrual accounting

When a customer pays for products or services in advance of their receipt, this payment is recorded by a business as unearned revenue. Also referred to as “advance payments” or “deferred revenue,” unearned revenue is mainly used in accrual accounting. Due to the advanced nature of the payment, the seller has a liability until the good or service has been delivered. As a result, for accounting purposes the revenue is only recognized after the product or service has been delivered, and the payment received. Advance payments are beneficial for small businesses, who benefit from an infusion of cash flow to provide the future services.

Certain contracts and customer agreements can also contain provisions stating contingencies where an unexpected event can provide the customer with the right to receive a refund or cancel the order. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. Expert advice and resources for today’s accounting professionals. Baremetrics provides you with all the revenue metrics you need to track. Integrating this innovative tool can make financial analysis seamless for your SaaS company, and you can start a free trial today.

As each month of the annual subscription goes by, the monthly portion of this total can be deducted and recorded as revenue. Unearned revenues are payments for future services to be performed or goods to be delivered. Advance customer payments for newspaper subscriptions or extended warranties are unearned revenues at the time of sale. At the end of each accounting period, adjusting entries must be made to recognize the portion of unearned revenues that have been earned during the period. Consumers, meanwhile, generate deferred revenue as they pay upfront for an annual subscription to the magazine. A publishing company may offer a yearly subscription of monthly issues for $120.

What is the difference between deferred revenue and unearned revenue? Well, the short answer is that both terms mean the same thing — that a business has been paid for goods or services it hasn’t provided yet. Here’s a more thorough description of deferred and unearned revenue, as well as a few examples to illustrate it.

The interest she derives from her investment is considered unearned income and must be reported to the IRS for taxation at the ordinary income rate. She also wins $10,000 on a game show, but she does not get the full amount of her winnings. Because the IRS deducts taxes from it, treating the amount as unearned income. Taxation differs for unearned income and earned income due to qualitative differences. Most unearned income sources are not subject to payroll taxes, and none of it is subject to employment taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare.

As you can see, the unearned revenue will appear on the right-hand side of the balance sheet in the current liabilities column. The business has not yet performed the service or sent the products paid for. A client purchases a package of 20 person training sessions for $2000, or $100 per session. The personal trainers enters $2000 as a debit to cash and $2000 as a credit to unearned revenue.

Unearned Revenue Reporting Requirements

If the value was entered as an asset rather than a liability, the business’s profit would be overstated for that accounting period. According to the accounting equation, assets should equal the sum of equity plus liabilities. When the business provides the good or service, the unearned revenue account is decreased with a debit and the revenue account is increased with a credit. Conversely, if you have received revenue from a client but not yet earned it, then you record the unearned revenue in the deferred revenue journal, which is a liability. The bottom line Deferred or unearned revenue is an important accounting concept, as it helps to ensure that the assets and liabilities on a balance sheet are accurately reported. It makes perfectly clear to shareholders and other involved parties that the company still has outstanding obligations before all of its revenue can be considered assets.

Look below to see an example of the two journal entries your business will need to create when recording unearned revenue. Taking the previous example from above, Beeker’s Mystery Boxes will record the transactions with James in their accounting journals. On the contrary to what the names suggest, unearned revenue and deferred revenue are both the same thing.


They are both incomes for which the cash has been collected, but the obligations of delivering goods and services are yet to be performed. For simplicity, in all scenarios, you charge a subscription fee of $25 per month for clients to use your SaaS product. Revenue is recorded when it is earned and not when the cash is received. If you have earned revenue but a client has not yet paid their bill, then you report your earned revenue in the accounts receivable journal, which is an asset.

Here are a couple of hypothetical examples to show how unearned income actually works. Tax advisors often recommend diversifying holdings to even out the effect of taxes on unearned income. Make sure you understand the origin and taxation of any of your unearned income. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about depreciation rate and how it affects your small business.

What Is Unearned Income?

This is also a violation of the matching principle, since revenues are being recognized at once, while related expenses are not being recognized until later periods. Unearned revenue is mostly common in companies that provide subscription-based services to their customers. When a portion of the deferred revenue is earned, the deferred revenue account is lessened by a debit of the same amount, whereas the revenue account is credited. However, since you have not yet earned the revenue, unearned revenue is shown as a liability to indicate that you still owe the client your services. In other words, deferred revenue requires some action on the part of the company before it can be considered an asset.

It is important to properly document unearned revenues in order to accurately evaluate the financial stability of an enterprise. It is also imperative when seeking investor capital or other forms of business financing. From the date of initial payment, the payment is recorded as revenue on a monthly basis until the entirety of the promised benefits is confirmed to have been received by the customer. Unearned Revenue refers to customer payments collected by a company before the actual delivery of the product or service.

It differs from earned income, which is any form of compensation gained from employment, work, or business activities. When the cash is received, a liability account is created with corresponding equal entry in cash received. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that a public company must meet to recognize revenue. Here is everything you need to know about unearned revenue and how it affects your small business.

Is Unearned Revenue a Liability?

It also includes companies that provide software on a subscription basis, as well as fitness centers, food delivery services, etc. In short, any business that collects a monthly or annual subscription fee falls into this category. Once goods or services have been rendered and a customer has received what they paid for, the business will need to revise the previous journal entry with another double-entry. This time, the company will debit its unearned revenue account while crediting its service revenues account for the appropriate amount.