What Is an Accrual?

What Is an Accrual?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

An accrual is a term used in finance and accounting that refers to the recognition and recording of revenue or expenses before the cash is received or paid. Accrual accounting is a method that measures the financial performance of a business by recognizing financial events regardless of when transactions occur. Therefore, it goes by the principle that income is recognized when earned, and expenses are recognized when incurred.

Related Questions

1. What is the difference between accrual and cash accounting?

In accrual accounting, transactions are recorded when they occur, regardless of when the cash is received or paid. Conversely, cash accounting only records transactions when the cash is received or paid. Hence, the timing of when income and expenses are recognised differs in both methods.

2. What are the advantages of accrual accounting?

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Accrual accounting provides a more accurate financial picture of a business as it records transactions when they occur. This method can show the inflow and outflow of cash in a particular period, enabling better tracking of profits and losses.

3. Are there any negatives to accrual accounting?

One potential downside to accrual accounting is its complexity. Compared to cash accounting, it can be more difficult to implement due to the need to keep track of accounts receivable and payable. Additionally, it could provide a skewed view of cash flow due to recognising revenue and expenses before cash exchanges hands.

4. Can I switch between accrual and cash accounting methods?

Yes, businesses can switch between methods. However, it is essential to note that the IRS requires businesses to choose a method at the start and stick to it. If a business wishes to change methods, they’ll need to have approval from the IRS.

5. What is the meaning of accrued expenses?

Accrued expenses refer to costs that a business has incurred but has not yet paid. These can include wages, utilities, services, and taxes. Under the accrual method, these expenses are recognised and recorded in your accounts once they are incurred, even though payment might happen later.