Cash or Accrual : What’s the Difference?

When you start a business, you have many decisions to make. One is the method of accounting your business will use for reporting income and expenses on your tax return- cash or accrual.

Two methods generally used are “cash” and “accrual.” The cash method is the easiest to implement. Under the cash method, you recognize income when you receive a payment from a customer. You take a deduction when you pay qualifying expenses.

If you choose the accrual method, you recognize income when you render services or sell your products. That’s true even if you’re not expecting to receive payment for several months. The money your customers owe you is your “accounts receivable.” On the expense side, if you buy something today and pay for it later, you deduct the cost now. What you owe for purchases you’ve made is your “accounts payable.”

The cash method more closely reflects your cash flow — how money is coming in and out of your business. The drawback is that your records may not help you track how much people owe you or how much debt your business owes.

The accrual method better reflects how your business is actually doing because you can match income and expenses in the proper period.

As a new business owner, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each method before you decide whether cash or accrual works best for your business. The nature of your business may require that you use the accrual method. Keep in mind that if you want to change from one method of accounting to another later, you may need to get IRS approval. For assistance in making this and other decisions for your new business, please give us a call at 817.488.8939.

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