UNEARNED REVENUE: Definition, Examples & Calculation

Unearned Revenue
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In most cases, individuals receive money from companies for a service or product that has yet to be produced or delivered. That cash received is unearned revenue, which reports as a current liability on a company’s balance sheet because it indicates a debt owed to the client. This article covers the definition, calculation, and what type of account unearned revenue is.

What is Unearned Revenue?

Unearned revenue, or deferred revenue, is an initial payment from a customer for work that is yet to start. It is a payment for products or services that will be delivered later. In most common situations, the seller wields power over the consumer or when the vendor gives tailored merchandise to the buyer. The seller now has the resources to complete the requested service, which is good from a cash flow standpoint. Considering the type of unearned revenue account, which is payment from a customer for a waiting service or goods.

Examples of Unearned Revenue

Morningstar Inc. (MORN) is a financial services company that provides products and services to financial advisers and asset managers. Subscriptions are in use for selling several of its items. Many subscribers pay in advance and receive the product over time under this arrangement. Here are a few examples of unearned revenue are:

  • A rent payment made in advance
  • A services contract paid in advance
  • Legal retainer paid in advance
  • Prepaid insurance
  • Airline tickets
  • Annual subscriptions for media or software.
  • Service contract paid in advance
  • Legal retainer paid in advance 

The above examples are initial payments from a client for awaiting service. Assume you bought an airline ticket and paid for it, but you have yet to receive the service until the day specified. However, that company or business has received a payment but has yet to render the service. 

This delayed revenue is used to cover company expenses such as fueling the plane, performing maintenance, and supplying passengers with food, complimentary blankets, and other amenities.

The Importance of Unearned Revenue

According to Accounting Tools, unearned revenue is beneficial to a small business’s cash flow because it provides the funds needed to pay for future project expenses.

To comprehend deferred revenue, consider it as a debt owed to a consumer. You earn deferred revenue after the consumer receives what he or she made payment for or before the transaction is complete. A corporation can now credit income for delivering goods or services to customers.

Recording Unearned Revenue

After an advance payment for goods or services, the records must be on the balance sheet, exactly as in the preceding example. There is a debit in the deferred revenue account after the delivery of products or services. At the same time, credit raises the revenue account. Following typical double-entry bookkeeping methods, the credit and debit will be the same amount.

Small businesses gain from advance payments because they receive an infusion of cash flow to deliver future services. The effective acquisition of cash inflow is reflected in an unearned revenue log entry. When they provide the prepayment service or product, the record of the revenue will be on the income statement.

If a newspaper company accepts $1,200 for a one-year registration, they report the sum as a cash increase and an unearned revenue rise. Because both accounts are on the financial statements, the transaction has no immediate impact on the income statement. If it is a monthly publication, the obligation or unearned revenue reduces by $100 ($1,200 divided by 12 months) as each periodical delivers, while income increases by the same amount.

Reporting of Unearned Sales Revenue

There are two methods for reporting unearned sales revenue listed below:  

#1. Liability Method

If a business receives a delay in revenue in this manner, you will have to create a liability account. The primary concept underlying the use of the liability technique to record unearned sales is that you cant earn the money yet. Until then, the corporation should report unearned revenue as a liability. The common liability account, for example, is in use in deferred Revenue.

#2. Earnings Method

When a company receives unearned sales, the entire amount of record is under an Income account and progressively will adjust as the firm provides the goods or service over the period of time that the goods or service is provided.

What Type of Account Is Unearned Revenue?

Unearned revenue is a form of a current liability account. However, it is money owing to the corporation that has yet to make the payment. If they are yet to supply the good or service, the company must compensate the customer since it is liable for the delivery or completion of that good or service. Unearned revenue is a current liability type of account. On a balance sheet, it is alongside other types of liabilities, assets, and owner’s equity.

In addition, if a prepaid good or service is undeliverable (or if the customer cancels their order), the company must reimburse the customer since it is responsible for the delivery or completion of that good or service. Deferred revenue is therefore a current obligation on the balance sheet.
Prepayment of products and services often occurs within one fiscal year. Hence, unearned revenue is a type of account that in records appears as a current liability rather than a long-term liability.
If this isn’t the case, and the service’s delivery date is more than a year away, unearned income reflects long-term liabilities.
Accounts payable, bank account overdrafts, accrued expenses, income tax payable, capital leases, and so on are examples of other accounting obligations.

Is unearned Revenue a Liability?

Unearned revenue is, indeed, a liability. which is reported as a liability under financial reporting guidelines.

Recording the value as an asset rather than a liability during the accounting period is overstating the total amount of profit. Assets should equal the total equity plus liabilities, according to the accounting equation. This would throw the books off balance.

Not recording revenue in the same accounting period as expenses is also breaking standard accounting principles. As a result, any corporation that has already accepted payment but has yet to deliver the product is liable for deferred revenue. You might be wondering how revenue can be a liability if liability is something you owe. To comprehend this, you must first comprehend what unearned means.

Accounting for Unearned Revenue

The journal entry comprises a debit to cash and a credit to unearned revenue when the transaction occurs, such as a publishing company selling a magazine subscription. The income statement, also referred to as a statement of earnings, does not reflect a sale until the company has earned the money by delivering the magazines to the consumer. However, because the company still has to deliver the magazines to the customer, the balance sheet, or statement of financial position, will reflect that the corporation increased its cash assets while incurring liability for the transaction.

Furthermore, when a company receives cash for goods or services that it will provide in the future, it causes an increase in the firm’s cash balance. However, upon providing the goods or services in the future, the unearned income will be a liability on the company’s balance sheet, resulting in a significant increase on both sides of the balance sheet (Asset and Liabilities).

You can only record unearned revenue in financial accounting after delivering a service or product. However, because you take payment in advance, you must wait until you match the above criteria before recognizing it. Continue reading to understand unearned revenue, how to handle it in business accounting, and how Profit well recognized may assist.

Unearned Revenue on Financial Statements

The income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows all have various effects on deferred revenue.

#1. Balance Sheet

Unearned revenue appears on the balance sheet in two areas. To begin with, because you received cash from your clients, it is among the cash and cash equivalent assets. Unearned income, on the other hand, is a liability because you have yet to earn the money and owe the client your services.

Unearned revenue is typically a current problem because most prepaid contracts are less than a one-year duration.

#2. Income Statement

The income statement does not show unearned revenue. However, as you complete each section of the contract, you will transfer a portion of the unearned revenue account into the revenue account during each accounting period. On the income statement, you will recognize this revenue.

Unearned revenue is often a current issue because most prepaid contracts are for less than a year.

#3. Statement of Cash Flows

The cash flow report indicates how much money is coming in and going out of the organization. Unearned revenue appears as a complex value in the cash flow document’s absorption costing method. It makes no difference if you haven’t earned the money; what matters is that it has entered your business. Unearned revenue is usually a current issue because most prepaid contracts are for less than a year.

Benefits of Unearned Revenue

Here are a few of the most significant advantages of unearned revenue.

#1. Improves Cash Flow

It is what pays your bills and assists you during quiet times. Receiving money in advance will help you maintain a good cash flow and keep your business afloat during difficult times.

#2. Increases Working Capital

You may be able to boost working capital and avoid this road if your clients pay you sooner.

#3. Satisfies Your Customers

Many clients prefer to pay in advance. This allows customers to better manage their cash flow while also demonstrating their commitment to your services.

Unearned Revenue Criteria

Larger firms, like small enterprises, can profit from the cash flow of unearned revenue to pay for day-to-day business operations. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States has additional standards that public corporations must follow in order to record income as earned.

The SEC specifies that revenue must be realizable and earned before recording it on the income statement. The following qualifications must be in place:

  • Having proof of a contract between the company and the customer
  • Completion of goods or service delivery.
  • A seller’s pricing has been predetermined or fixed.
  • Collectibility is guaranteed.

Is unearned income an asset?

Unearned revenue is regarded as a liability because the business has been compensated but has not yet delivered a good or service. As the company provides the good or service, the liability eventually turns into an asset.

Is unearned a debit or credit?

Unearned revenue is shown as a credit to the unearned revenue account and a debit to the cash account on a balance sheet. The majority of unearned income will be classified as a short-term liability and must be paid off within a year.

What are two types of unearned income?

Investment-type income, such as taxable interest, regular dividends, and capital gain distributions, is categorized as unearned income. In addition, it covers taxable social security benefits, unemployment benefits, pensions, annuities, debt forgiveness, and distributions of unearned income from trusts.

What is the double entry for unearned revenue?

Your company will need to use the double-entry accounting method to credit one account with the relevant amounts, and debit another account with the corresponding amounts. Unearned income should be recorded in your diary as a debit from the cash account and a credit to the unearned income account.

Does unearned revenue go to cash?

Unearned revenue, which is essentially an advance payment, causes an increase in cash flow, as was already noted. When received, unearned revenue is reported in the cash flow statement and is a liability on the balance sheet.


What is the entry for unearned revenue?

Unearned revenue should be credited to the unearned revenue account and debited from the cash account in your journal. This journal entry shows that the company received cash for a service, but it was earned on credit, as a deposit for future goods or services.

Why unearned revenue is a liability?

This is because unearned revenue is money received for a service or product that has yet to be produced. It indicates a debt owed to the consumer, it is reported as a liability on a company’s balance sheet.

Is accrued revenue a debit or credit?

The amount is recognized on the income statement as a credit to revenue when accrued revenue is initially recorded. The same amount is debited from an associated accrued revenue account on the balance sheet, which could be in the form of accounts receivable.

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