Rent Expense

Refers to the cost incurred by a business to use a property

The cost incurred by a business to use a property or location for an office, retail space, factory, or storage space is referred to as rent expense. This, as opposed to variable expense, is a fixed operating or absorption cost for a business.

Rental costs are frequently subject to a one or two-year contract between the lessor and lessee, with renewal options. Rent can be a significant portion of operating expenses, depending on the type of business.

Rent is one of the major operating expenses for retail businesses that do not own their property, along with employee wages, marketing, and advertising costs. These expenses in manufacturing companies are typically low as a percentage of total expenses.

Rent for manufacturing operations is included in factory overhead, whereas rent not related to production, such as administrative office space rent, is charged to operating expenses. Therefore, location is usually the most critical factor in determining rent prices in real estate.

A retailer who wants to open in a high-traffic area will have to pay more rent than a retailer who wants to open in a secondary location. Likewise, a manufacturer seeking to lease factory or warehouse space near ports or major transportation lines in major metropolitan areas will face higher-than-average leasing costs.

It is weighed against the benefits of being in a prime location for the retailer and close to transshipment points for the manufacturer. 

Because of the growing popularity of e-commerce, many businesses are reconsidering the amount of money they spend on commercial real estate rentals.

Some businesses are reducing the number of physical stores to shift more of their operations to online shopping. 

To meet consumer demand, retailers combine online and offline operations in the form of a website and physical stores, which are referred to as "click and mortar."

The demand for office space is changing due to technological advancements, as businesses realize they can employ workers remotely. A reduction in property rent expenses is an obvious benefit for the company, while many employees prefer the convenience of working from home.

Example of Rent expense

Property rent expenses for retailers can vary depending on several factors, including the state of the economy. For example, Signet Jewelers Limited (SIG) operates a nationwide chain of Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared stores.

In a note to its financial statements in the 10-K filing in 2017, the company disclosed that some of its operating leases include predetermined rent increases. The increases are applied to the income statement in a straight line over the lease term, including any construction or other rental holidays.

Rentals, taxes, and common area maintenance are charged to the income statement as they occur. Contingent rentals-amounts based on a percentage of sales over a predetermined level-are kept separate from minimum rent until the company can determine when the expense is likely to have occurred and the amount is reasonably estimable.

Signet incurred a minimum rent expense of $524 million and a contingent rent expense of $10 million in the fiscal year 2017, accounting for approximately 28% of total operating expenses. 

On the other hand, Signet announced in June 2020 that it would begin to significantly reduce its property rental expenses due to the financial impact of the crisis, which forced the company to close its brick-and-mortar stores worldwide temporarily.

By May 2021, the company reported that same-store North American sales had increased 117.2% over the previous year, while International sales had decreased 12.2%. Another bright spot for the company was e-commerce sales increased by 113.4% during the same period. 

As part of its reorganization strategy for the fiscal year 2022, the company announced plans to permanently close more than 100 stores, many of which are located in shopping malls but will open 100 kiosks.

The company will step up its efforts in digital jewelry shopping, engaging customers at home via video technology to conduct virtual by-appointment shopping consultations.

Commonly asked questions

A few of the questions are:

Is Deferred Rent an Asset or a Liability?

Every month, businesses are expected to have a consistent rent expense documented according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The main issue with this regulation is that rent payments are not always consistent.

In many cases, monthly rent expenses rise over time due to inflation. On the other hand, the lessor may occasionally offer the company a free month or a rent reduction.

To deal with this situation, a deferred rent asset or liability account must be included on the balance sheet. This account must have:

  • Determine the total cost of the lease, including free months, discounted months, and months that increase due to inflation
  • The total amount must then be divided by the months the lease covers.
  • Every month must be listed under the original monthly rental expense regardless of what was paid. It is accounted for in the expense account.
  • The deferred rent asset or liability account records offset rent payments (cost reduction or cost inflation).

How location affects the expense

Location is everything for businesses, especially real estate and retail. It is critical to be located in an area with high foot traffic and easy access to the company's target consumer base. As a result, companies frequently devote a significant portion of their rental budget to prime locations.

For such businesses, it is critical to weigh the cost of rent against the benefits and potential revenue boost from being in a prime location.

It is the money paid for occupying a business or company's space. This expense is typically paid monthly but may be paid quarterly, yearly, or on other terms. Unless a business owns its property, rent is a common expense for almost all businesses and is also one of the major expenses of any business or company.

Rent is not tax-deductible, but it is considered an expense that will work to offset the business's income. Depending on the use of the space for which the rent is paid, this expense can be classified as an administrative or production cost.


If the space is used solely to manufacture and produce the product that the company sells, it is considered a production cost. This is because renting should be factored into the cost of producing the product.

Rent is considered an administrative cost for all other reasons. This means it is considered part of the expenses required to carry out the company's daily business operations.

This will allow you to divide the cost of administration and production properly. Rent is still an expense used to offset profits in both cases.

It is an expense on the company's income statement and should be calculated as an actual expense for the month it is paid. It should not be confused with prepaid rent, a company asset. 

Rent payment is recorded as a debit on the balance sheet, and any credit or reduction in rent is recorded as a credit on the accounting statement. Because rent accounts for such a large portion of a company's operating expenses, it must be calculated and recorded correctly on all financial statements.

This ensures they provide the most accurate picture of the company's expenses and profit margin.

How have these expenses been paid?

When a company leases office space, a retail store, or a factory building, the rent is usually paid in advance for the month or quarter covered by the rent payment. For example, the rent for June may be due on May 31 or June 1. 

Many businesses pay their rent with a check. This requires them to be organized and have the check mailed a few days before the due date. Otherwise, the landlord may not receive the rent check on time, and the company may face severe commercial consequences such as interest, late fees, and even eviction.

Prepaid rent is paid in advance of the rental period to which it applies. For example, prepaid rent payment is made when you write a check in May for the rent for June. To ensure that the rent check arrives on time, some businesses may prepay rent by a few days each month. 

Others pay several months' rent for commercial reasons, such as receiving a rental discount or knowing the rent is paid. Whatever your reasons are, if you the check before the rent is due, you are prepaying the rent.

What Are the Costs of Rent?

These expenses include all costs associated with leasing a property during a reporting period. It consists of the rent you pay each month or quarter and any other costs associated with using the property. 

For example, you might pay extra money to cover insurance, maintenance, repair of the building's common areas, and security.

These expenses are fixed costs, not variable costs, which means you must pay them monthly or quarterly regardless of how many products you produce. Moreover, even if you suspend operations for a month, you must still pay your rent and other lease obligations. As a result, it can significantly reduce a company's operating income.

What Is the Distinction Between Prepaid Rent and Rental Expenses?

In layman's terms, the distinction is straightforward: This expense is an amount due under a lease agreement, and prepaid rent is any rent expense paid in advance of the due date. But things become a little more complicated in accounting terms.

These expenses are typically classified as Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (SG&A) on the income statement. Salary, office supplies, insurance, and litigation are all examples of SG&A expenses. Rent is classified as SG&A because a business uses its real estate to operate and generate revenue.

These expenses in the manufacturing industry may be treated differently. These companies are likelier to include such expenses as part of factory overhead. This is because factory rent is linked to output – without a factory, there would be no product. 

Rent that is not directly related to production, such as office space, is charged to SG&A. In the end, it doesn't matter which category the rent expense appears in – the net effect is the same.

What is the Impact?

Credit the cash account and debit the rent expense/SG&A account when a such expense is incurred. SG&A expenses are listed under revenue on the income statement, in the same block as other expenses such as depreciation and cost of goods sold.

Your gross profit is calculated by subtracting total revenues from the total costs of goods sold. Operating income is calculated by subtracting gross profit from operating expenses (SG&A). 

Operating income measures how much your revenue will eventually become a profit after deducting accounting expenses such as taxes.

As a result, the higher your rent expenses, the lower your operating income. As a result, rent directly impacts the amount of cash in your company's vault.

To understand how prepaid rent fits into this analysis, you must first understand that this expense entry will list the cost of occupying space during the time interval specified on the income statement – even if the rent was not paid during that period. 

So, if ABC company is preparing its income statement for June and the rent for June is $5,000, ABC would record a $5,000 rent expense. The company makes the same entry regardless of whether the rent was paid in June or May.

To account for this timing discrepancy, the company must record the amount of rent paid in advance that has yet to be consumed. 

This is done in the balance sheet's current assets section. Returning to the previous example, if ABC paid the rent in May, the $5,000 prepayment would be recorded as current assets until the cost was incurred. Prepaid rent is an accounting benefit that the company has not yet received but will receive in the future. Therefore, it is beneficial to the company.

Why Do Companies Use Prepaid Rent?

Businesses mostly use prepaid rent for commercial reasons. The rent payment due date is one of the most important clauses in a commercial lease. Typically, the annual rent is due in 12 equal payments on the date specified in the lease, or four equal payments. 

The lease will specify the four rent payment dates, such as January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. There's nothing magical about these dates; they just happened by chance.

You will notice that you will always be asked to pay rent one month or three months in advance, resulting in a prepaid rent situation. 

Banks and mortgage lenders typically require landlords to have rent payments before the mortgage payment is due for the same period; this increases the likelihood that the mortgage payment will be covered by the rental income. As a result, you'll have difficulty finding a landlord who will accept rent in arrears.

You may sometimes choose to pay more than one rental payment in advance. For example, if the competition is fierce, you could offer to pay a full year's rent in advance to secure a specific property. 

Alternatively, you could agree to pay a few month's rent in advance in exchange for something else, such as a 10% rent discount. Each company will have its commercial drivers who will place an envelope of cash on the table.

The only thing you can't use prepaid rent for is to get extra tax breaks. In most cases, a company will claim a deduction in the same year it incurs the business expense. So, if you paid a $2,000 insurance premium in 2018, you could deduct it in 2018. 

Assume you have a multi-year insurance contract with a $2,000 annual premium. You could pay the 2018 and 2019 premiums concurrently and deduct the $4,000 payment in 2018. Depending on your tax situation, this may be advantageous. 

Unfortunately, the deduct when you pay rule does not apply to prepaid rent. So, for example, if you pay $50,000 for a year's rent in June, you can deduct only seven months of that amount on December 31.

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Researched and authored by Javed Saifi | Linkedin

Reviewed and Edited by Sakshi Uradi | LinkedIn

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