Difference Between Cash Basis And Accrual Basis Accounting


Two accounting approaches that shape financial statements are Cash Basis Accounting and Accrual Basis Accounting. Both methods serve the purpose of tracking a company’s financial transactions. They mainly differ in their timing and recognition of revenue and expenses.

The cash method provides an immediate recognition of revenue and expenses, while the accrual method focuses on anticipated revenue and expenses. Let’s talk about them in details.

What is Cash Basis Accounting?

Cash basis accounting records revenue and expenses when actual payments are received or disbursed. It doesn’t account for either when the transactions that create them occur. In other words, Income is recorded when the payment is received and expenses are recorded when payments are made.

Cash Basis Accounting offers a more immediate and tangible representation of a business’s financial status. It is often favored by small businesses and individuals due to its simplicity. It requires less complex record-keeping. This method on the other hand is less suitable for larger enterprises or those requiring a more accurate representation of long-term financial health.

What is Accrual Basis Accounting?

Accrual Basis Accounting is an accounting method that recognizes revenue and expenses when they are earned or incurred, regardless of when the cash is actually received or paid.

In other words, under this method, revenue is recorded when it is earned, typically when goods are delivered or services are performed, irrespective of when payment is received. On the other hand, expenses are recognized when they are incurred, matching them with the related revenue in the same accounting period.

Accrual Basis Accounting provides a more accurate representation of a company’s financial position and performance, especially for businesses with complex operations and long-term projects.

This method requires a higher level of record-keeping and may be more complex than Cash Basis Accounting. It is commonly used by larger businesses and is often mandated for financial reporting purposes.

Cash Basis vs Accrual Basis: Key Differences

Basis of Comparison Cash Basis AccountingAccrual Basis Accounting
Timing of RecordingRecords transactions when cash is received or paid.Records transactions when they occur, regardless of cash movement.
Recognition of RevenueRecognizes revenue when cash is received.Recognizes revenue when it is earned, regardless of cash receipt.
Recognition of ExpensesRecords expenses when cash is paid.Records expenses when they are incurred, not necessarily when cash is paid.
Matching PrincipleDoes not follow the matching principle.Follows the matching principle by matching revenues with related expenses.
Financial PositionMay not accurately reflect the current financial position.Provides a more accurate representation of the financial position.
ComplexitySimpler and easier to understand.More complex due to the need to track receivables, payables, and accruals.
GAAP ComplianceLess likely to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).Generally aligns with GAAP and is required for larger businesses.
Tax ImplicationsCan result in lower taxes in the short term.Taxes are based on earned revenue and incurred expenses, regardless of cash flow.
Use CasesCommonly used by small businesses and for personal finances.Required for publicly traded companies and recommended for larger businesses.
Timing of Financial ReportsProvides a more immediate reflection of cash flow.May provide a more accurate long-term view of financial performance.