Accrued Liabilities Extensive Look With Examples and FAQs


A third example is an accrued pension liability, which is recorded when a company incurs a liability to pay its employees at some point in the future for benefits earned under a pension plan. A fourth example is accrued services, which a company records when a supplier provides services to a company, but has not billed it by the end of an accounting period. Accrued liabilities, which are also called accrued expenses, only exist when using an accrual method of accounting. The concept of an accrued liability relates to timing and the matching principle. Under accrual accounting, all expenses are to be recorded in financial statements in the period in which they are incurred, which may differ from the period in which they are paid. Another example of an expense accrual involves employee bonuses that were earned in 2019, but will not be paid until 2020.

  1. The effect of this journal entry would be to increase the utility company’s expenses on the income statement, and to increase its accounts payable on the balance sheet.
  2. It allows you to create journal entries for accrued expenses, and will place the information where it is necessary.
  3. An example of an accrued expense is when a company purchases supplies from a vendor but has not yet received an invoice for the purchase.
  4. Then, supporting accounting staff analyze what transactions/invoices might not have been recorded by the AP team and book accrued expenses.
  5. Accruals assist accountants in identifying and monitoring potential cash flow or profitability problems and in determining and delivering an adequate remedy for such problems.

We’ve highlighted some of the obvious differences between accrued expenses and accounts payable above. But the following are some of the main factors that set these two types of costs apart. Accrued expenses are payments that a company is obligated to pay in the future for goods and services that were already delivered. Put simply, a company receives a good or service and incurs an expense. The Financial Accounting Standards Boards (FASB) has set out Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the U.S. dictating when and how companies should accrue for certain things. For example, “Accounting for Compensated Absences” requires employers to accrue a liability for future vacation days for employees.

Meanwhile, various liabilities will be credited to report the increase in obligations at the end of the year. Companies can boast record sales and still face an ominous financial future. In accounting, liabilities refer to a company’s financial obligations to employees, suppliers, lenders, governments, and shareholders. accrued liabilities are financial obligations that a business incurs. The goods and services have been received, but the money has not been paid for them yet. Because they aren’t paid for yet, they aren’t recorded in the general ledger.

Reversing Entries

There are two types of accrued liabilities that companies must account for, including routine and recurring. We’ve listed some of the most important details about each below. Accrued liabilities only exist when using an accrual method of accounting. It’s very common for businesses to make an order and receive the goods or services before paying for them.

When vacation days are taken, the liability is debited instead of Payroll Expense. The terms of employment allow 20 days of paid vacation per year and salary of $26,100. After allowing for 104 weekend days, there are 261 (365 less 104) compensated days even though the employee works only 241 days out of the year. We also allow you to split your payment across 2 separate credit card transactions or send a payment link email to another person on your behalf.


The second type of accrued liability is a non-routine accrued liability. These expenses aren’t a part of the business’s day-to-day operating activities. These may be billed to the business, but they won’t have to be paid until the next accounting period. These expenses only occur when using the accrual accounting method. Accrual-based accounting relies on the timing and matching principle.

They should appear at the end of the company’s accounting period. Adjustments are made using journal entries that are entered into the company’s general ledger. For example, imagine a dental office buys a year-long magazine subscription for $144 ($12 per month) so patients have something to read while they wait for appointments. At the time of the payment, the dental office sets up a prepaid expense account for $144 to show it has not yet received the goods, but it has already paid the cash. For example, a business has outsourced its accounting services for 2 years. The business can record the invoice as an accrued expense as soon as received.

Understanding Accrued Expenses

We expect to offer our courses in additional languages in the future but, at this time, HBS Online can only be provided in English. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. He is the sole author of all the materials on

Routine Accrued Liability

However, we can broadly categorize accrued liabilities into two categories. Accrued liabilities are often recorded as short-term liabilities on the balance sheet of a company. However, these can be categorized as long-term liabilities as well. Payroll taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes are liabilities that can be accrued periodically in preparation for payment before the taxes are due.

ABC records the first entry of accrued expense payable to XYZ on the 1st of September. The cash settlement for the first invoice takes place on the 10th of September. For companies that are responsible for external reporting, accrued expenses play a big part in wrapping up month-end, quarter-end, or fiscal year-end processes.

When the payroll is run, the payroll taxes are entered into the accounting software as accrued liabilities. When the payments are made, the amounts are removed from accrued liabilities. A simple sales tax accrued liability transaction might start with a sale that came with a $13.40 sales tax charge. Since you haven’t paid that tax yet, you include it on your accounting software as an accrued liability in the “sales taxes payable” category. Then, at the end of the year or quarter, you pay this sales tax, along with any other sales taxes collected throughout the period.

Unlike conventional expenses, the business will receive something of value from the prepaid expense over the course of several accounting periods. Because the company actually incurred 12 months’ worth of salary expenses, an adjusting journal entry is recorded at the end of the accounting period for the last month’s expense. The adjusting entry will be dated Dec. 31 and will have a debit to the salary expenses account on the income statement and a credit to the salaries payable account on the balance sheet. Accrued expenses theoretically make a company’s financial statements more accurate.

This includes things like employee wages, rent, and interest payments on debt owed to banks. This means that companies are able to pay their suppliers at a later date. This includes manufacturers that buy supplies or inventory from suppliers. The term accounts payable (AP) refers to a company’s ongoing expenses.