Comparison of cash and accrual methods of accounting
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2011)|
||This article needs attention from an expert in Accounting. (January 2013)|
|Fields of accounting|
Both can be used in a range of situations from the accounts of a whole country, a large corporation, a small business or an individual. In many cases regulatory bodies may require individuals, businesses or corporations use one method or the other. When this is not the case, the choice of which to use is an important decision as both have advantages and disadvantages.
The cash method of accounting records revenue when cash is received, and records expenses when cash is paid. For a business invoicing for an item sold, or work done, the corresponding amount will not appear in the books until payment is received - and similarly, debts owed by the business will not appear until they have been paid.
In the United States tax environment, cash basis tax payers include income when it is received, and claim deductions when expenses are paid. A cash basis taxpayer can look to the doctrine of constructive receipt and the doctrine of cash equivalence to help determine when income is received. Most individuals start as cash basis taxpayers. There are four types of taxpayers that cannot use the cash basis if their gross receipts are too high, and they do not meet other exceptions: (1) C corporations; (2) partnerships with at least one C corporation partner; (3) tax shelters; and (4) taxpayers required to keep inventory (retail, wholesale, manufacturer etc...) Exceptions (1) Farming Businesses (2) Qualified PSC's (3) Entities with average gross receipts over three years of not more than $5,000,000
The accrual method records income items when they are earned and records deductions when expenses are incurred. For a business invoicing for an item sold, or work done, the corresponding amount will appear in the books even though no payment has yet been received - and debts owed by the business show as they are incurred, even though they may not be paid until much later.
In the United States tax environment, the accrual basis has been an option since 1916. An "accrual basis taxpayer" looks to the "all-events test" and "earlier-of test" to determine when income is earned. Under the all-events test, an accrual basis taxpayer generally must include income "for the taxable year when all the events have occurred that fix the right to receive income and the amount of the income can be determined with reasonable accuracy." Under the "earlier-of test", an accrual basis taxpayer receives income when (1) the required performance occurs, (2) payment therefore is due, or (3) payment therefore is made, whichever happens earliest. Under the earlier of test outlined in Revenue Ruling 74-607, an accrual basis taxpayer may be treated as a cash basis taxpayer when payment is received before the required performance and before the payment is actually due. An accrual basis taxpayer generally can claim a deduction "in the taxable year in which all the events have occurred that establish the fact of the liability, the amount of the liability can be determined with reasonable accuracy, and economic performance has occurred with respect to the liability."
Similar definition of accrual basis accounting is true for financial accounting purposes, except that revenue can't be recognized until it's earned even if a cash payment has already been received by the tax authorities.
- "Measuring the Deficit: Cash vs. Accrual". Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- "Cash vs. Accrual Accounting", Inc.com
- "Measuring the Deficit: Cash vs. Accrual", GAO.gov
- "What are Accruals and the Meaning of Accrued in Accounting?". Simplestudies LLC. 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Treas. Reg., 26 C.F.R. § 1.446-1(c)(1)(i)
- IRC § 448(a)
- Pinson, Linda. Keeping the Books. Kaplan Publishing, 2007 pp 10 - 11.
- IRC § 448(b)
- Treas. Reg., 26 C.F.R. § 1.446-1(c)(1)(ii)
- Treas. Reg., 26 C.F.R. § 1.446-1(c)(1)(ii)(A); Revenue Ruling 74-607
- Revenue Ruling 74-607
- Treas. Reg., 26 C.F.R. § 1.461-1(a)(2)(i)