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Principles of Finance

4.3 How Does a Company Recognize a Sale and an Expense?

Principles of Finance4.3 How Does a Company Recognize a Sale and an Expense?

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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction to Finance
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 1.1 What Is Finance?
    3. 1.2 The Role of Finance in an Organization
    4. 1.3 Importance of Data and Technology
    5. 1.4 Careers in Finance
    6. 1.5 Markets and Participants
    7. 1.6 Microeconomic and Macroeconomic Matters
    8. 1.7 Financial Instruments
    9. 1.8 Concepts of Time and Value
    10. Summary
    11. Key Terms
    12. Multiple Choice
    13. Review Questions
    14. Video Activity
  3. 2 Corporate Structure and Governance
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 2.1 Business Structures
    3. 2.2 Relationship between Shareholders and Company Management
    4. 2.3 Role of the Board of Directors
    5. 2.4 Agency Issues: Shareholders and Corporate Boards
    6. 2.5 Interacting with Investors, Intermediaries, and Other Market Participants
    7. 2.6 Companies in Domestic and Global Markets
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. CFA Institute
    11. Multiple Choice
    12. Review Questions
    13. Video Activity
  4. 3 Economic Foundations: Money and Rates
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 3.1 Microeconomics
    3. 3.2 Macroeconomics
    4. 3.3 Business Cycles and Economic Activity
    5. 3.4 Interest Rates
    6. 3.5 Foreign Exchange Rates
    7. 3.6 Sources and Characteristics of Economic Data
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. CFA Institute
    11. Multiple Choice
    12. Review Questions
    13. Problems
    14. Video Activity
  5. 4 Accrual Accounting Process
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 4.1 Cash versus Accrual Accounting
    3. 4.2 Economic Basis for Accrual Accounting
    4. 4.3 How Does a Company Recognize a Sale and an Expense?
    5. 4.4 When Should a Company Capitalize or Expense an Item?
    6. 4.5 What Is “Profit” versus “Loss” for the Company?
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Review Questions
    11. Problems
    12. Video Activity
  6. 5 Financial Statements
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 5.1 The Income Statement
    3. 5.2 The Balance Sheet
    4. 5.3 The Relationship between the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement
    5. 5.4 The Statement of Owner’s Equity
    6. 5.5 The Statement of Cash Flows
    7. 5.6 Operating Cash Flow and Free Cash Flow to the Firm (FCFF)
    8. 5.7 Common-Size Statements
    9. 5.8 Reporting Financial Activity
    10. Summary
    11. Key Terms
    12. CFA Institute
    13. Multiple Choice
    14. Review Questions
    15. Problems
    16. Video Activity
  7. 6 Measures of Financial Health
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 6.1 Ratios: Condensing Information into Smaller Pieces
    3. 6.2 Operating Efficiency Ratios
    4. 6.3 Liquidity Ratios
    5. 6.4 Solvency Ratios
    6. 6.5 Market Value Ratios
    7. 6.6 Profitability Ratios and the DuPont Method
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. CFA Institute
    11. Multiple Choice
    12. Review Questions
    13. Problems
    14. Video Activity
  8. 7 Time Value of Money I: Single Payment Value
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 7.1 Now versus Later Concepts
    3. 7.2 Time Value of Money (TVM) Basics
    4. 7.3 Methods for Solving Time Value of Money Problems
    5. 7.4 Applications of TVM in Finance
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. CFA Institute
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Review Questions
    11. Problems
    12. Video Activity
  9. 8 Time Value of Money II: Equal Multiple Payments
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 8.1 Perpetuities
    3. 8.2 Annuities
    4. 8.3 Loan Amortization
    5. 8.4 Stated versus Effective Rates
    6. 8.5 Equal Payments with a Financial Calculator and Excel
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. CFA Institute
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Problems
    12. Video Activity
  10. 9 Time Value of Money III: Unequal Multiple Payment Values
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 9.1 Timing of Cash Flows
    3. 9.2 Unequal Payments Using a Financial Calculator or Microsoft Excel
    4. Summary
    5. Key Terms
    6. CFA Institute
    7. Multiple Choice
    8. Review Questions
    9. Problems
    10. Video Activity
  11. 10 Bonds and Bond Valuation
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 10.1 Characteristics of Bonds
    3. 10.2 Bond Valuation
    4. 10.3 Using the Yield Curve
    5. 10.4 Risks of Interest Rates and Default
    6. 10.5 Using Spreadsheets to Solve Bond Problems
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. CFA Institute
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Problems
    13. Video Activity
  12. 11 Stocks and Stock Valuation
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 11.1 Multiple Approaches to Stock Valuation
    3. 11.2 Dividend Discount Models (DDMs)
    4. 11.3 Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Model
    5. 11.4 Preferred Stock
    6. 11.5 Efficient Markets
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. CFA Institute
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Problems
    13. Video Activity
  13. 12 Historical Performance of US Markets
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 12.1 Overview of US Financial Markets
    3. 12.2 Historical Picture of Inflation
    4. 12.3 Historical Picture of Returns to Bonds
    5. 12.4 Historical Picture of Returns to Stocks
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. Multiple Choice
    9. Review Questions
    10. Video Activity
  14. 13 Statistical Analysis in Finance
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 13.1 Measures of Center
    3. 13.2 Measures of Spread
    4. 13.3 Measures of Position
    5. 13.4 Statistical Distributions
    6. 13.5 Probability Distributions
    7. 13.6 Data Visualization and Graphical Displays
    8. 13.7 The R Statistical Analysis Tool
    9. Summary
    10. Key Terms
    11. CFA Institute
    12. Multiple Choice
    13. Review Questions
    14. Problems
    15. Video Activity
  15. 14 Regression Analysis in Finance
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 14.1 Correlation Analysis
    3. 14.2 Linear Regression Analysis
    4. 14.3 Best-Fit Linear Model
    5. 14.4 Regression Applications in Finance
    6. 14.5 Predictions and Prediction Intervals
    7. 14.6 Use of R Statistical Analysis Tool for Regression Analysis
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Problems
    13. Video Activity
  16. 15 How to Think about Investing
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 15.1 Risk and Return to an Individual Asset
    3. 15.2 Risk and Return to Multiple Assets
    4. 15.3 The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)
    5. 15.4 Applications in Performance Measurement
    6. 15.5 Using Excel to Make Investment Decisions
    7. Summary
    8. Key Terms
    9. CFA Institute
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Problems
    13. Video Activity
  17. 16 How Companies Think about Investing
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 16.1 Payback Period Method
    3. 16.2 Net Present Value (NPV) Method
    4. 16.3 Internal Rate of Return (IRR) Method
    5. 16.4 Alternative Methods
    6. 16.5 Choosing between Projects
    7. 16.6 Using Excel to Make Company Investment Decisions
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. CFA Institute
    11. Multiple Choice
    12. Review Questions
    13. Problems
    14. Video Activity
  18. 17 How Firms Raise Capital
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 17.1 The Concept of Capital Structure
    3. 17.2 The Costs of Debt and Equity Capital
    4. 17.3 Calculating the Weighted Average Cost of Capital
    5. 17.4 Capital Structure Choices
    6. 17.5 Optimal Capital Structure
    7. 17.6 Alternative Sources of Funds
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. CFA Institute
    11. Multiple Choice
    12. Review Questions
    13. Problems
    14. Video Activity
  19. 18 Financial Forecasting
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 18.1 The Importance of Forecasting
    3. 18.2 Forecasting Sales
    4. 18.3 Pro Forma Financials
    5. 18.4 Generating the Complete Forecast
    6. 18.5 Forecasting Cash Flow and Assessing the Value of Growth
    7. 18.6 Using Excel to Create the Long-Term Forecast
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Problems
    13. Video Activity
  20. 19 The Importance of Trade Credit and Working Capital in Planning
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 19.1 What Is Working Capital?
    3. 19.2 What Is Trade Credit?
    4. 19.3 Cash Management
    5. 19.4 Receivables Management
    6. 19.5 Inventory Management
    7. 19.6 Using Excel to Create the Short-Term Plan
    8. Summary
    9. Key Terms
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Review Questions
    12. Video Activity
  21. 20 Risk Management and the Financial Manager
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 20.1 The Importance of Risk Management
    3. 20.2 Commodity Price Risk
    4. 20.3 Exchange Rates and Risk
    5. 20.4 Interest Rate Risk
    6. Summary
    7. Key Terms
    8. CFA Institute
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Review Questions
    11. Problems
    12. Video Activity
  22. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the revenue recognition principle and how it relates to current and future sales transactions.
  • Explain the expense recognition principle and how it relates to current and future purchase transactions.
  • Assess the role of ethics in revenue and expense recognition.

You’ve learned the basics of each method as well as the accounting equation and double-entry accounting. Next, let’s turn our attention to when we record transactions, as timing is key.

Revenue Recognition

Revenue is the value of goods and services the organization sold or provided to customers for a given period of time. In our current example, Chris’s landscaping business, the “revenue,” or the value of services performed, for the month of August would be $1,400. It is the value Chris received in exchange for the services provided to her clients. Likewise, when a business provides goods or services to customers for cash at the time of the service or in the future, the business classifies the amount(s) as revenue. Just as the $1,400 revenues from a business made Chris’s checking account balance increase, revenues increase the value of a business. In accounting, revenue recognition involves recording sales or fees earned within the period earned. Just as earning wages from a business or summer job reflects the number of hours worked for a given rate of pay or payments from clients for services rendered, revenues (and the other terms) are used to indicate the dollar value of goods and services provided to customers for a given period of time.

Think It Through

Coffee Shop Products

Think about a coffee shop in your area. Identify items the coffee shop sells that would be classified as revenues. Remember, revenues for the coffee shop are related to its primary purpose: selling coffee and related items. Or, better yet, make a trip to the local coffee shop and get a first-hand experience.

Short-Term Revenue Recognition Examples

Two brief examples may help illustrate the difference between cash accounting and accrual accounting. Assume that a business sells $200 worth of merchandise. In some businesses, there are two ways the customers pay: cash and credit (also referred to as “on account”). Cash sales include checks and credit cards and are paid at the time of the sale. Credit sales (not to be confused with credit card sales) allow the customer to take the merchandise but pay within a specified period of time, usually up to 45 days.

A cash sale would be recorded in the financial statements under both the cash basis and accrual basis of accounting. It makes sense because the customer received the merchandise and paid the business at the same time. It is considered two events that occur simultaneously (exchange of merchandise for cash).

A credit sale, however, would be treated differently under each of these types of accounting. Under the cash basis of accounting, a credit sale would not be recorded in the financial statements until the cash is received, under terms stipulated by the seller. For example, assume that in the next year of Chris’s landscaping business, on April 1, she provides $500 worth of services to one of her customers. The sale is made on account, with the payment due 45 days later. Under the cash basis of accounting, the revenue would not be recorded until May 16, when the cash was received. Under the accrual basis of accounting, this sale would be recorded in the financial statements at the time the services were provided, April 1. The reason the sale would be recorded is that, under accrual accounting, the business reports that it provided $500 worth of services to its customer. The fact that the customers will pay later is viewed as a separate transaction under accrual accounting (see Figure 4.6).

A simple depiction of credit versus cash. On the left side, the statement of cash flows for the month ended May 31 shows cash flow from operations net earnings of $500 as cash. On the right side, the statement of cash flows for the month ended April 30 shows cash flow from operations net earnings of $500 as an accrual.
Figure 4.6 Credit versus Cash On the left is a credit sale recorded under the cash basis of accounting. On the right, the same credit sale is recorded under the accrual basis of accounting.

Let’s now explore the difference between the cash basis and accrual basis of accounting using an expense. Assume a business purchases $160 worth of printing supplies from a supplier (vendor). Similar to a sale, a purchase of merchandise can be paid for at the time of sale using cash (also a check or credit card) or at a later date (on account). A purchase paid with cash at the time of the sale would be recorded in the financial statements under both cash basis and accrual basis of accounting. It makes sense because the business received the printing supplies from the supplier and paid the supplier at the same time. It is considered two events that occur simultaneously (exchange of merchandise for cash).

If the purchase was made on account (also called a credit purchase), however, the transaction would be recorded differently under each of these types of accounting. Under the cash basis of accounting, the $160 purchase on account would not be recorded in the financial statements until the cash is paid, as stipulated by the seller’s terms. For example, if the printing supplies were received on July 17 and the payment terms were 15 days, no transaction would be recorded until August 1, when the goods were paid for. Under the accrual basis of accounting, this purchase would be recorded in the financial statements at the time the business received the printing supplies from the supplier (July 17). The reason the purchase would be recorded is that the business reports that it bought $160 worth of printing supplies from its vendors. The fact that the business will pay later is viewed as a separate issue under accrual accounting. Table 4.1 summarizes these examples under the different bases of accounting.

Transaction Under Cash-Basis Accounting Under Accrual-Basis Accounting
$200 sale for cash Recorded in financial statements at time of sale Recorded in financial statements at time of sale
$200 sale on account Not recorded in financial statements until cash is received Recorded in financial statements at time of sale
$160 purchase for cash Recorded in financial statements at time of purchase Recorded in financial statements at time of purchase
$160 purchase on account Not recorded in financial statements until cash is paid Recorded in financial statements at time of purchase
Table 4.1 How Transactions Are Viewed under Cash and Accrual Accounting

Businesses often sell items for cash as well as on account, where payment terms are extended for a period of time (for example, 30 to 45 days). Likewise, businesses often purchase items from suppliers (also called vendors) for cash or, more likely, on account. Under the cash basis of accounting, these transactions would not be recorded until the cash is exchanged. In contrast, under accrual accounting, the transactions are recorded when the transaction occurs, regardless of when the cash is received or paid.

Concepts In Practice

Ethics in Revenue Recognition

Because each industry typically has a different method for recognizing income, revenue recognition is one of the most difficult tasks for accountants, as it involves a number of ethical dilemmas related to income reporting. To provide an industry-wide approach, Accounting Standards Update No. 2014-09 and other related updates were implemented to clarify revenue recognition rules. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) announced that these updates would replace US GAAP’s current industry-specific revenue recognition practices with a principle-based approach, potentially affecting both day-to-day business accounting and the execution of business contracts with customers.1 The AICPA and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) require professional accountants to act with due care and to remain abreast of new accounting rules and methods of accounting for different transactions, including revenue recognition.

The IFAC emphasizes the role of professional accountants working within a business in ensuring the quality of financial reporting: “Management is responsible for the financial information produced by the company. As such, professional accountants in businesses therefore have the task of defending the quality of financial reporting right at the source where the numbers and figures are produced!”2 In accordance with proper revenue recognition, accountants do not recognize revenue before it is earned.

Concepts In Practice

Gift Card Revenue Recognition

Gift cards have become an essential part of revenue generation and growth for many businesses. Although they are practical for consumers and are a low cost for businesses, navigating revenue recognition guidelines can be difficult. Gift cards with expiration dates require that revenue recognition be delayed until customer use or expiration. However, most gift cards now have no expiration date. So when do you recognize revenue?

Companies may need to provide an estimation of projected (or deferred) gift card revenue and usage during a period based on past experience or industry standards. There are a few rules governing reporting. If a company determines that a portion of all the issued gift cards will never be used, it may write this off to income. In some states, if a gift card remains unused, in part or in full, the unused portion of the card is transferred to the state government. It is considered unclaimed property for the customer, meaning that the company cannot keep these funds as revenue because, in this case, they have reverted to the state government.

Expense Recognition

An expense is a cost associated with providing goods or services to customers. In our opening example, the expenses that Chris incurred totaled $1,150 (consisting of $100 for brakes, $50 for fuel, and $1,000 for insurance). You might think of expenses as the opposite of revenue, in that expenses reduce Chris’s checking account balance. Likewise, expenses decrease the value of the business and represent the dollar value of costs incurred to provide goods and services to customers for a given period of time.

Think It Through

Coffee Shop Expenses

While thinking about or visiting a coffee shop in your area, look around (or visualize) and identify items or activities that are the expenses of the coffee shop. Remember, expenses for the coffee shop are related to resources consumed while generating revenue from selling coffee and related items. Do not forget about any expenses that might not be so obvious—as a general rule, every activity in a business has an associated cost.

Footnotes

  • 1American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). “Revenue Recognition.” n.d. https://www.aicpa.org/interestareas/frc/accountingfinancialreporting/revenuerecognition.html
  • 2Len Jui and Jessie Wong. “Roles and Importance of Professional Accountants in Business.” China Accounting Journal. October 21, 2013. https://www.ifac.org/news-events/2013-10/roles-and-importance-professional-accountants-business
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