EDU Articles

Learn about investing, trading, retirement, banking, personal finance and more.

Ad is loading...
Help CenterFind Your WayBuy/Sell Daily ProductsIntraday ProductsFAQ
Expert's OpinionsWeekly ReportsBest StocksInvestingCryptoAI Trading BotsArtificial Intelligence
IntroductionMarket AbbreviationsStock Market StatisticsThinking about Your Financial FutureSearch for AdvisorsFinancial CalculatorsFinancial MediaFederal Agencies and Programs
Investment PortfoliosModern Portfolio TheoriesInvestment StrategyPractical Portfolio Management InfoDiversificationRatingsActivities AbroadTrading Markets
Investment Terminology and InstrumentsBasicsInvestment TerminologyTrading 1 on 1BondsMutual FundsExchange Traded Funds (ETF)StocksAnnuities
Technical Analysis and TradingAnalysis BasicsTechnical IndicatorsTrading ModelsPatternsTrading OptionsTrading ForexTrading CommoditiesSpeculative Investments
Cryptocurrencies and BlockchainBlockchainBitcoinEthereumLitecoinRippleTaxes and Regulation
RetirementSocial Security BenefitsLong-Term Care InsuranceGeneral Retirement InfoHealth InsuranceMedicare and MedicaidLife InsuranceWills and Trusts
Retirement Accounts401(k) and 403(b) PlansIndividual Retirement Accounts (IRA)SEP and SIMPLE IRAsKeogh PlansMoney Purchase/Profit Sharing PlansSelf-Employed 401(k)s and 457sPension Plan RulesCash-Balance PlansThrift Savings Plans and 529 Plans and ESA
Personal FinancePersonal BankingPersonal DebtHome RelatedTax FormsSmall BusinessIncomeInvestmentsIRS Rules and PublicationsPersonal LifeMortgage
Corporate BasicsBasicsCorporate StructureCorporate FundamentalsCorporate DebtRisksEconomicsCorporate AccountingDividendsEarnings

What are Accounting Methods?

Understanding financial transactions is fundamental to any business's success. At the heart of this understanding are the accounting methods a company employs to record and manage these transactions. So, what are accounting methods, and why are they crucial to your business?

Accounting Methods: A Conceptual Framework

Accounting methods form the backbone of a company's financial reporting system. They encompass the rules, procedures, and practices that dictate how a company records its revenues and expenses. Two primary accounting methods are universally recognized and applied – the cash basis and accrual basis of accounting. Choosing between these two accounting techniques is a strategic decision and depends on the company's size, revenue, and the nature of its operations. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stipulates specific rules regarding which method businesses should adopt, making it imperative for companies to understand the differences and implications of each.

Cash Basis Accounting: Simplicity and Real-time Reporting

Cash basis accounting is a straightforward, intuitive method where revenues and expenses are only recorded when money is exchanged. Whether it involves tangible cash or digital transactions, cash basis accounting only recognizes income and expenses when the payment is received or made, offering real-time financial insights.

Despite its simplicity, cash basis accounting may not accurately reflect a company's financial position over time, especially when transactions are made on credit or involve long-term projects. Moreover, public companies with annual revenue exceeding $5 million, as well as those offering customer financing, are generally required to follow accrual accounting due to stringent regulatory requirements set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Accrual Accounting: For Comprehensive Financial Outlook

In contrast to cash accounting, accrual accounting records revenues and expenses as soon as the transactions occur, regardless of the payment status. This approach provides a more comprehensive view of a company's financial health as it accounts for credit transactions, sales, purchases, and long-term projects.

Accrual accounting includes advanced financial concepts such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. This method is more complex but provides a fuller picture of a company's financial position, making it ideal for large corporations and businesses offering customer financing. The IRS mandates accrual accounting for businesses with an average of $25 million or more in sales over the preceding three years.

Accounting Methods and the IRS Guidelines

Companies must exercise diligence when choosing their accounting method, as the IRS requires adherence to the chosen method for consistency in financial reporting. Once a business has opted for an accounting method, shifting to another requires IRS approval, making it difficult to change accounting styles down the line.

Accounting methods serve as the guiding principles for a company's financial management, making them pivotal for strategic decision-making. Whether a business opts for cash basis or accrual accounting, understanding the pros, cons, and regulatory requirements is crucial. These methods provide invaluable insights into a company's financial health, facilitating sound business decisions and ensuring compliance with regulatory bodies.

Accounting Methods are the overarching style of accounting and bookkeeping which determine the practices, procedures, systems, and controls which should be put in place.

There are two main methods of accounting that businesses and individuals can use to approach their accounting, and these are known as cash basis and accrual basis. The IRS expects businesses to choose early one which method they will use, and it can be difficult to change accounting styles later on.

In cash basis accounting, the only transactions to be recorded are those where money has changed hands and settlement has been reached. This does not mean the transactions have to use hard paper currency, but the point is that transactions must be finalized and that payment has been given or received.

Publicly traded companies with over $5 Million in annual revenue are not able to use Cash accounting, due to SEC reporting requirements and GAAP standards. Instead, they use Accrual Accounting, which is the primary accounting method taught to CPAs and MBAs.

Accrual accounting documents transactions as soon as the transaction has been initiated, whether by the transfer of goods, or the performance of services, and so on, whether or not the payment has been finalized or received. The payment for such things can be put into a Receivables or Payables account and settled at a later date.

Companies who offer financing to their customers, even if the company is very small, will need to use Accrual Accounting, since Cash Basis accounting does not use Receivables or Payables. Many other things are characteristic of accrual accounting, such as Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.

What are Accounting Policies?
What is Abnormal Earnings Valuation?

Disclaimers and Limitations

Ad is loading...