Unearned Revenue vs Accrued Revenue: Difference and Comparison

Some accounting concepts can be very tricky to understand as they seem to have almost the same meanings.

To understand how much revenue a company incurs and what fraction of it makes it as the profit of the company, the concept of unearned and accrued revenue is important.

While one is the company’s liability, the other is an asset. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Unearned revenue refers to income received for services not yet provided, while accrued revenue refers to income earned but still needs to be received.
  2. Unearned revenue is a liability, while accrued revenue is an asset.
  3. Unearned revenue is common in real estate and software industries, while accrued revenue is common in industries such as healthcare and consulting.

Unearned Revenue vs Accrued Revenue

Unearned revenue refers to the money received by a company in advance for goods or services that have not yet been delivered. Accrued revenue refers to the revenue that a company has earned but has not yet received payment for. This type of revenue is recorded as an asset on the balance sheet.

Unearned Revenue vs Accrued Revenue

A company receives unearned revenue as a prepayment for a good or service yet to be delivered.

It is considered a liability for the company as the organization is supposed to deliver the service within the due date.

This liability converts into revenue earned once the good or service is delivered to the customer. Unearned revenue is also commonly known as deferred revenue. 

A company earns accrued revenue in exchange for a good or service, but it is the amount for which no cash has been received.

In other words, accrued revenues are receivables that reflect the amount of money the customers owe the company for goods or services they have already purchased. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonUnearned RevenueAccrued Revenue
DefinitionUnearned revenue is referred to as the prepayment for any goods or services that a company is expected to deliver within the due date. Accrued revenue is referred to as the payment that is yet to be received from the customers despite the goods or services already provided. 
Asset/LiabilityIn the balance sheet, unearned revenue is recorded as a liability as the company is yet to provide the goods or services to customers. In the balance sheet, accrued revenue is recorded as a current asset as the customers own to the company for what has been purchased already. 
ProcessOnce the company completes the delivery, then this same amount is shown as revenue on the income statement. Accrued revenue is shown as earned revenue on the income statement and once the payment is completed it is shown as an adjusting entry to the asset account. 
IndustryIt is very common in the insurance industry as the customers are most likely to pay the coverage for an entire year. It is a very common scenario in the service industry as the customers are not willing to pay the full money for a service that a company hasn’t yet rendered. 
EffectUnearned revenue shows a company’s current liability and hence it directly affects a company’s working capital. Accrued revenue affects the total net income of the company. 

What is Unearned Revenue?

Simply put, an unearned amount is a prepayment for any goods or services that the company has yet to deliver.

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Since the company needs to deliver the specific good or service to the customer in due time, it is seen as a debt. This is the reason why unearned revenue is recorded as a liability on a company’s balance sheet. 

Unearned revenue is very among companies that provide various insurance policies. For example, a customer pays the insurance coverage for an entire year in a single renewal of the payment process.

So, the company is now in debt for providing service for a year. A similar case takes place in subscription-based products or services as well.

A customer must make a prepayment yearly or monthly for using any paid application software. 

Once the good or service is provided to the customer, the unearned revenue is recorded as revenue on the income statement.

Depending on the duration within which a company is supposed to provide a good or service, unearned revenue is marked as a current and long-time liability (12 months or more). 

What is Accrued Revenue?

In accrual accounting, accrued revenue is recorded when a company makes a successful sale though it doesn’t receive any cash.

So, accrued revenue is the opposite of unearned revenue. Unlike unearned revenue, in accrued revenue, the customers are in debt as they purchase the service or good and then eventually pay for it.

Accrued revenue is recorded as receivables on the balance sheet. It follows the revenue recognition principle, which means the revenue will be recorded during the period when it is earned.

They are recorded in the financial statements by an adjusting journal entry. 

Accrued revenues are very common in long-term projects, especially in the construction sector. In such cases, the clients don’t want to make the entire payment upfront. 

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Main Differences Between Unearned Revenue and Accrued Revenue

  1. Unearned revenue is the prepayment for goods or services a company is expected to deliver within the due date. On the other hand, Accrued revenue is the payment that is yet to be received from the customers despite the goods or services already provided. 
  2. Unearned revenue is a liability in the balance sheet, whereas accrued revenue is a current asset. 
  3. Once the company completes the delivery, then the amount of unearned revenue is shown as revenue on the income statement. On the other hand, accrued revenue is shown as earned revenue on the income statement, and once the payment is completed, it is shown as an adjusting entry to the asset account. 
  4. Unearned revenue is very common in the insurance industry, whereas accrued revenue is common in the service industry. 
  5. Unearned revenue shows a company’s current liability, and hence it directly affects a company’s working capital. But, accrued revenue affects the total net income of the company. 
References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278425409000908
  2. https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=36732176

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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9 thoughts on “Unearned Revenue vs Accrued Revenue: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article is highly informative, as it clearly distinguishes the differences between unearned revenue and accrued revenue. The examples provided are extremely useful and make the concepts much easier to understand.

    Reply
  2. The explanation on unearned and accrued revenue’s impact on different industries is intriguing. It would be interesting to know more about other sectors where these concepts have relevance.

    Reply
    • I agree with you. This article is indeed comprehensive, but additional information about other industrial applications of these concepts would enhance it even further.

      Reply
  3. The comparison between unearned and accrued revenue is well-expounded in this article. However, a touch of humor could have made it even more engaging.

    Reply
    • I can see where you’re coming from, but the complex nature of accounting concepts doesn’t seem to be the perfect fit for humor.

      Reply
  4. This article does an excellent job in highlighting the financial consequences of unearned and accrued revenue. Perfect for professionals looking to deepen their understanding of these concepts.

    Reply
  5. This piece is somewhat confusing and needs a more focused approach. The author should consider restructuring the content to better clarify the differences between unearned and accrued revenue.

    Reply
  6. The examples provided in the article are illustrative and make it easier to grasp the contrasting nature of unearned and accrued revenue. Exceptional work!

    Reply

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