Accrual vs Deferral – All You Need To Know

Businesses require the allocation of both incomes and expenses to the same accounting period. However, there are often instances when the expenses and revenues do not occur or business does not receive them in a financial year. Therefore, to properly record them in the accounting books, businesses use accounting concepts such as accrual and deferral. Often, there is confusion among users over the use of both these terms, and thus, they use it interchangeably. However, both these terms are very different from each other. Therefore, to better understand the two terms, we need to look at the differences between accrual vs deferral.

Before we detail the differences, first let’s understand what these terms mean.

Accrual vs Deferral – Meaning

Both these terms are useful in the expense and revenue recognition policy of a business. Basically, these are adjusting entries that help a business to adjust their books to give a true financial picture of a company. In simple words, both these concepts come into use when there is a time gap between the actual realization and reporting of the revenue and expenses. Or, we can say accrual occurs prior to a receipt or payment, while deferral occurs after a receipt or payment.

Let’s understand the two terms in detail:


The revenue or the expenses that are earned but are yet to receive by the company are accruals. One can classify accruals either as an Accrued expense or Accrued income (or revenue).

Accrued Income are the transactions for which the company is already due to get the payment, but has not got the payment yet. In such a case, the company classifies the payment as accrued incomes for the financial year in which it is due. For example, interest on the savings account is due every December, but the payment usually comes in January.

Accrual expenses, on the other hand, are the payments that a company is supposed to make in the current financial year, but pays it another financial year. For example, the due date of the electricity bill is December, but the company pays it in January.


Deferral is just the opposite of accrual and occurs before the due date of the expense or revenue. Deferred expense is the expense that a company pays in advance. For example, a company pays rent for a full two years in advance.

Deferred income, on the other hand, is the revenue that a company gets in advance. For example, a customer pays money in advance for an order with a delivery date in January.

Accrual vs Deferral – Differences

Following are the differences between accrual vs deferral:


Accruals are the items that occur before the actual payment and receipt. Deferral, on the other hand, occurs after the payment or the receipt of revenue.


Deferred expenses are those expenses for which the payment is made, but the company is yet to incur the expense. Accrued expenses, on the other hand, are those expenses that are incurred but are yet to be paid.


Deferred revenue is the revenue that the company gets in advance. Accrued revenue, on the other hand, is the revenue that is due but the company is yet to receive it.

Accrual vs Deferral


Two major examples of accrual are account receivables and account payables. In the case of accounts receivable, the company sells the goods, but the customer is yet to pay. Accounts payable, on the other hand, is the expense that the company is yet to pay.

Two major examples of deferral account are prepaid expenses and unearned revenues. Prepaid expenses are those that are not due, but the company has already made the payment. Unearned revenue, on the other hand, is the revenue that is not yet earned, but the company has already got the payment.


In accrual, a company incurs the revenue or expense without actually paying cash for it. Deferral, on the other hand, where the company pays cash in advance but is yet to incur the revenue or expense.

Increase or Decrease

Under deferral, there is an increase in expenses and a decrease in revenue. In accrual, there is a decrease in cost and an increase in revenue.

Accounts Affected

The adjusting entries for accruals and deferrals will always involve an income statement account and a balance sheet account. For example, a revenue accrual affects revenue and an asset account. Deferred revenue impact liability and a revenue account. Accrued expenses affect an expense and a liability account, while deferred expenses affect an expense and a liability account.

Journal Entry

Journal entry for accrued revenue is Revenue Accrual account debit, and Revenue account credit. The journal entry for deferred revenue is Revenue account debit and Deferred revenue account credit. For deferred expenses, the entry is Expense deferred account debit and Expense account credit. The entry for accrued expenses is Expense account debit and Expense accrual account credit.

Final Words

Both accrual and deferral entries are very important for a company to give a true financial position. Moreover, both type adjusting entries help a business to comply with the matching concept of accounting.1–3

What is the difference between an accrual and a deferral? | AccountingCoach. February 2020. [Source]
Adjusting Entries – Accruals & Deferrals | AccountingCoach. February 2020. [Source]
What Is the Difference Between Accruals & Deferrals? smallbusiness.chron. February 2020. [Source]
Last updated on : February 17th, 2020
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