Debitoor Dictionary

Accounting terms explained in a simple way

Over 150 Articles for Founders and Entrepreneurs

  1. Accruals
  2. Depreciation
  3. Balance sheet
  4. Cash accounting
  5. Accrual accounting

Prepayments – What are prepayments?

Prepayments are payments that have been made but the benefits of which are not taken by the company until the period or year end

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Prepayments are amounts paid for by a business in advance of the goods or services being received later on. Any payment made in advance can be considered a prepayment.

A prepayment is not dissimilar to a deposit, but generally falls under a more set time period for fulfillment of the goods or service purchased. A deposit is also generally a part of the total amount, while a prepayment covers the full cost. A prepayment is a full payment in advance.

Management of prepayments

In the traditional sales process, goods or services are ordered and fulfilled. An invoice is then sent for payment, meaning the payment occurs after the order is completed, in order to ensure the goods are sent or are as expected.

However, some types of goods or services require up-front payment in full before the goods or service are provided. In this case, the payment is known as a prepayment.

Some common expenses are also prepaid. Insurance is a regular example of an expense that requires prepayment due to the nature of the service.

Prepayments in accounting

Goods and services may be prepaid. If they have not been received by the end of the financial year the amount prepaid will appear in the balance sheet as prepayments and not as costs in the profit and loss account.

This amount will be subtracted from the balance sheet and added to the costs of the P&L. This way the costs involved will be charged to the correct accounting period.

Registering prepayments

Depending on your business, you might find that you regularly work with prepayments. The two types of accounting systems handle payments differently. This affects when the expense is recorded in the financial records of a business.

Cash accounting

When using the cash accounting system, you would record the payment as soon as it is made. For example, payment for an expense is registered in the period in which it occurs, no matter when the service or goods are actually received.

With prepayments for an expense, for example, the payment would be entered in the period that it is made.

Accrual accounting

In accrual accounting, payments are recorded when the financial event occurs, not when the cash actually changes hands. In this system, a prepayment for an expense would be entered when the billing occurs, not when the payment is made.