Accrued Expenses

Accrued expenses are expenses a company incurs but has not yet paid, often for goods or services it has already received.

Author: Meharban Taneja
Meharban Taneja
Meharban Taneja
I am Meharban Singh Taneja, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Finance at the University of Victoria. I have a profound interest in finance, which is evident from my internship at Wall Street Oasis as a Finance Research Analyst Intern. There, I published over 20 articles, leveraging deep data analysis and market insights. In addition to my academic and professional endeavors, I have a passion for stocks, basketball, and blogging. My technical proficiency includes Canva, Powerpoint, Excel, and social media marketing, tools that I have effectively utilized in my various roles.
Reviewed By: Manu Lakshmanan
Manu Lakshmanan
Manu Lakshmanan
Management Consulting | Strategy & Operations

Prior to accepting a position as the Director of Operations Strategy at DJO Global, Manu was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company in Houston. He served clients, including presenting directly to C-level executives, in digital, strategy, M&A, and operations projects.

Manu holds a PHD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University and a BA in Physics from Cornell University.

Last Updated:October 9, 2023

What are Accrued Expenses? 

Accrued expenses, also known as accrued liabilities, are costs that a business is aware it has incurred, but for which payment has not yet been made. This could range from salaries owed to employees to unpaid utility bills or even taxes.

They are important for business accounting all over the world. They help make financial reporting consistent across different industries and markets. Although the actual cash transfer for these expenses may not have occurred, the business acknowledges its obligation to make these payments in the near future.

This acknowledgment is crucial, as it is recorded in the financial statements for the specific accounting period during which the expense was incurred. The recording is typically done through journal entries that debit the relevant expense account and credit an accrued expenses liability account.

These are important because they play a pivotal role in adhering to the accrual basis of accounting, which is the standard accounting method for most businesses.

According to this approach, revenues and expenses are recorded when they are earned or incurred, not when the money actually changes hands.

This principle ensures that a company's income statements and balance sheets present a more accurate, comprehensive view of its financial health rather than a snapshot skewed by the timing of payments.

Key Takeaways

  • Accrued expenses are expenses a company incurs but has not yet paid, often for goods or services it has already received. 
  • The principle of 'matching' in accounting is maintained through the recognition of accrued expenses. 
  • Accrued expenses contribute to the reliability and transparency of a company's financial situation by accurately reflecting its liabilities. 
  • Recognition of accrued expenses aligns with the accrual basis of accounting, where an expense is recognized when it's incurred, not when payment is made. 
  • Accrued expenses are usually recognized at the end of an accounting period, and often involve reversing entries in the next accounting period.
  • The process of accrual involves estimation in some cases, especially when the exact amount of an expense isn't known at the time of accrual.

Types of Accrued Expenses

They represent a converse situation to prepayments, where payments are made in advance of receiving the goods or services.

Numerous costs come under the classification of these expenses. For instance, let's take a look at the different types of expenses a business might encounter:

  1. Interest on loans: This refers to the cost of borrowing money from a lender. Although the company might have been billed for the interest, it may not have paid it yet. However, it still needs to be recognized as an expense for the period in which it was incurred.
  2. Employee wages and salaries: These are the payments that the business owes to its employees for their work. Even if payday has not yet come around, the company must account for the wages and salaries that its employees have earned during the period.
  3. Government taxes: These are obligatory payments that the business owes to the government. Even if the due date for the tax payment has not yet arrived, the company needs to recognize the tax expense for the current period.
  4. Utilities: These include services like electricity, water, and internet, which the business uses daily. Even if the company has not received the utility bills for the period yet, it still has to estimate and recognize the utility expenses.
  5. Rent: If a company leases its office space or equipment, it would have rent expenses. Regardless of whether the payment is due at a later date, the rent expense should be recognized for the period when the business utilized the leased items.
  6. Other goods and services:These could include anything from office supplies to consultancy services that the company has consumed but not yet paid for.

Why Are Accrued Expenses Important?

Accrual accounting, which includes recording accrued expenses, enables companies to record expenses and revenues when they are incurred or earned, irrespective of when the actual cash movement occurs.

Accrued liabilities are a vital part of the accounting system because they uphold the accuracy and completeness of a company's financial statements.

This method gives a more comprehensive and accurate picture of a company's financial health as it encapsulates all obligations and anticipated income, regardless of the timing of the cash flow.

Hence, accrued liabilities help in maintaining the principle of 'matching' in accounting, where revenues and expenses are matched to the same accounting period.

Further elaborating on the importance of accrued expenses:

1. Cash Flow Management

It can also aid in cash flow management. By recording an expense when it is incurred, a company can better track its financial obligations and plan for future payments, improving the efficiency and accuracy of its budgeting and financial planning.

2. Tax and Regulatory Compliance

These expenses can also be crucial for tax and regulatory compliance. In many jurisdictions, accrual accounting is a requirement for businesses above a certain size.

Even if it's not a legal requirement, many tax authorities and regulatory bodies prefer accrual accounting as it provides a more accurate view of a company's operations.

3. Performance Analysis

It also assists in performance analysis and comparison. Accrual accounting, by matching revenues with the expenses incurred to generate those revenues, provides a more accurate measure of a company's profitability during a specific period.

This method allows for better comparison across different periods or against other companies.

4. Forecasting and Decision Making

By highlighting future financial obligations, accrued expenses can contribute significantly to forecasting and strategic decision making.

Management can use the information to assess the company's financial health and make decisions about future investments, cost reduction strategies, or financing options.

Recognition of Accrued Expenses

The recognition aligns with the accrual basis of accounting, which differs from the cash basis. Under this approach, an expense is recognized when it is incurred, not when payment changes hands.

For instance, if a company uses utilities in December but doesn't pay the bill until January, it would record an accrued expense in December for the value of the utilities used.

The double-entry system records this by debiting the relevant expense account and crediting an accrued liabilities account on the balance sheet. This action simultaneously increases the company's expenses and liabilities, thereby decreasing net income and retained earnings.

Here is a list detailing the intricacies and various facets of "Accrued Expenses" in accounting.

1. Timing of Recognition 

They are usually recognized at the end of an accounting period, during the process of preparing financial statements. This is when accountants examine the company's activities to identify any expenses that have been incurred but not yet paid.

2. Types of Accrued Expenses

Common types of accrued expenses include wages payable, interest payable, taxes payable, utilities payable, and rent payable.

For example, if a company has employees who are paid bi-weekly, it will need to accrue wages for the days the employees worked at the end of the month that fall before the next payday.

3. Reversing Entries

It often involves reversing entries in the next accounting period. Using the utility example, when the company pays the bill in January, it would debit the accrued liabilities account to reduce the liability and credit cash to reflect the outflow of money.

If the bill is not paid in the next period, the accrual remains on the books as a liability.

4. Estimation and Adjustments

Sometimes, the exact amount of an expense may not be known at the time of accrual. In such cases, the amount is estimated, and an adjusting entry is made once the exact amount is known.

5. Materiality Principle

The recording of accrued expenses also aligns with the principle of materiality in accounting, which emphasizes the need for all significant items to be appropriately represented in financial reports.

An accrued expense of a minor amount may not be registered due to its negligible influence on the financial statements. However, larger accrued liabilities that could impact decision-making that need to be consistently recorded.

6. Documentation and Audit Trail

The acknowledgment of accrued expenses usually relies on supporting documents such as invoices, agreements, or other forms of substantiation that an expense has indeed taken place. Maintaining this documentation is imperative for preserving a credible and traceable audit path.

Accrued Expenses and Financial Statements

Accrued expenses significantly impact both the income statement and the balance sheet. On the income statement, they increase the total expenses, thereby reducing the net income. This effect can influence the perceived profitability of the company.

On the balance sheet, it increase the total liabilities, which affects the company's perceived financial stability.

For instance, a higher debt-to-equity ratio, a key metric for analyzing a company's financial leverage, could make the company look more risky to investors and creditors.

The list below delineates the role and influence of "Accrued Expenses" on various components of a company's financial statements:

1. Income Statement

On the income statement, accrued expenses are recorded as line items under operating expenses.

Since income statements follow the matching principle, which requires that expenses be matched with the revenues they helped to generate, recognizing accrued liabilities. can provide a more accurate depiction of a company's profitability.

While accrued liabilities reduce the current period's net income, they also reflect the cost of generating the company's revenues during that period, contributing to a more accurate representation of the company's financial performance.

2. Balance Sheet

Accrued expenses are recorded as current liabilities on the balance sheet, as they are typically due within one year.

These liabilities increase the total liabilities on the balance sheet, affecting key ratios and metrics, such as the current ratio (current assets divided by current liabilities) or the quick ratio (also known as the acid-test ratio, which excludes inventories from current assets before dividing by current liabilities).

3. Statement of Cash Flows

While accrued liabilities don't constitute direct cash expenditures and, therefore don't immediately influence the cash flow, they will manifest on the cash flow statement once settled.

For instance, when they are paid, it's denoted as a cash outflow within the segment of operational activities.

4. Equity Section

The decrease in net income due to accrued liabilities also reduces the retained earnings in the equity section of the balance sheet.

Retained earnings represent the accumulated net income that has been retained for reinvestment into the business rather than distributed to shareholders as dividends.

5. Overall Impact on Financial Analysis

The impact of accrued expenses on financial statements can influence the perception of a company's financial health and performance among stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and analysts.

Accurate recording of these expenses ensures that financial ratios and metrics derived from the financial statements provide a realistic view of the company's profitability, liquidity, leverage, and operational efficiency.

Accrued Expenses vs. Accounts Payable

Although both accrued expenses and accounts payable represent amounts that a company owes, they are used under different circumstances and have different effects on the financial statements.

Accrued expenses are used when a company has incurred an expense but hasn't received an invoice, while accounts payable are used when a company has received an invoice but hasn't made the payment yet.

Also, accrued expenses often involve estimation, whereas accounts payable are precise amounts specified by suppliers' invoices.

The table showcases the distinctions between accrued liabilities and accounts payable across different criteria, allowing for a clear comparison.

Accrued Expenses vs. Accounts Payable
Criteria Accrued Expenses Account Payable
Timing and Documentation Recognized when a service is used or goods received, but no invoice is received yet. Recognized upon receiving an invoice. Documentation includes details on amount due, payment terms, and due date.
Nature of Transactions Pertains to recurring costs like interest, taxes, wages, utilities, or rent. Often estimated. Linked to the purchase of goods or one-off services from suppliers with precise amounts stated in invoices.
Recording Financial Statements Recorded as current liabilities on the balance sheet but separately. Also recorded as current liabilities but separately.Payment reflects differently on the cash flow statement.
Reversal Of Entries Often involves reversing entries in the next accounting period. Does not involve reversing entries. Payment is recorded against accounts payable when made.
Impact On Financial Ratios Can affect liquidity ratios. Relates more to operational costs and management policies. Also impacts liquidity ratios but is evaluated differently as it relates directly to trade credit and purchasing policies.


Accrued expenses, or accrued liabilities, are a vital component of an organization's financial and accounting systems. These expenses, incurred but not yet paid, are the financial obligations that a company must meet in the future for the goods or services it has already received.

Their recognition within the appropriate accounting period is crucial for accurate financial reporting and for maintaining the principle of 'matching' in accounting, where revenues and expenses are matched to the same period.

Accrued liabilities contribute significantly to providing a transparent and reliable view of a company's financial health.

They allow for better cash flow management, regulatory compliance, performance analysis, and informed decision-making. Despite not immediately influencing the cash flow, their settlement is reflected in the cash flow statement, emphasizing their importance in cash management.

The impact of accrued liabilities extends to the company's financial statements, influencing the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.

They increase expenses and liabilities, reducing net income and impacting key financial metrics. This underscores the importance of accurately recording these expenses to provide a realistic picture of a company's profitability, liquidity, leverage, and operational efficiency.

In summary, a company's understanding and management of accrued liabilities are essential for maintaining its financial health, adhering to regulatory requirements, and informing strategic decisions.

Through diligent recognition and management of these expenses, a company can accurately reflect its financial obligations and provide valuable information to stakeholders, contributing to its overall success and sustainability.

Researched and authored by Meharban Taneja | Linkedin

Reviewed and edited by Naveeth Rishwan Habeeb | LinkedIn

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