The main difference between accrual and cash basis accounting is the timing of when revenue and expenses are recognized. The cash method is most used by small businesses and for personal finances. The cash method accounts for revenue only when the money is received and for expenses only when the money is paid out. On the other hand, the accrual method accounts for revenue when it is earned and expenses goods and services when they are incurred. The revenue is recorded even if cash has not been recieved or if expenses have been incurred but no cash has been paid. Accrual accounting is the most common method used by businesses.

For example: Let's say you own a business that sells machinery. If you sell $5,000 worth of machinery, under the cash method, that amount is not recorded in the books until the customer hands you the money or you receive the check. Under the accrual method, the $5000 is recorded as revenue immediately when the sale is made, even if you receive the money a few days or weeks later. The same thing occurs for expenses. If you get an electric bill for $1700, under the cash method, the amount is not added to the books until you actually pay the bill. However, under the accrual method, the $1700 is recorded as an expense the day you get the bill.

Learn more about Financial Statements in our article, What You Need To Know About Financial Statements.

  1. When are expenses and revenues counted in accrual accounting?

    Under the accrual basis of accounting, revenues and expenses are counted when they are earned. This is different from the ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. When is revenue recognized under accrual accounting?

    Under the accrual accounting method, revenue is recognized and reported when a product is shipped or a service is provided. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does working capital include salaries?

    A company accrues unpaid salaries on its balance sheet as part of accounts payable, which is a current liability account, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is a profit and loss (P&L) statement and why do companies publish them?

    A profit and loss (P&L) statement, or balance sheet, is essentially a snapshot of a company's financial activity for ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do dividends affect the balance sheet?

    Dividends paid in cash affect a company's balance sheet by decreasing the company's cash account on the asset side and decreasing ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Are dividends considered an expense?

    Cash or stock dividends distributed to shareholders are not considered an expense on a company's income statement. Stock ... Read Full Answer >>
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