What is a deferred expense?

Definition of Deferred Expense

A deferred expense refers to a cost that has occurred but it will be reported as an expense in one or more future accounting periods. To accomplish this, the deferred expense is reported on the balance sheet as an asset or a contra liability until it is moved from the balance sheet to the income statement as an expense. This is done to achieve the accountants' matching principle.

Examples of Deferred Expenses

Let's assume that a large corporation spends $500,000 in accounting, legal, and other fees in order to issue $40,000,000 of bonds payable. Instead of charging the $500,000 to expense in the year that the fees are paid, the corporation will defer the $500,000 to the contra liability account Bond Issue Costs. Then over the bonds' life of 25 years, the $500,000 will be amortized (systematically moved) to expense at the rate of $20,000 per year ($500,000 divided by 25 years).

Another example of a deferred expense is a $12,000 insurance premium paid by a company on December 27 for insurance protection during the upcoming January 1 through June 30. On December 27, the $12,000 is deferred to the balance sheet account Prepaid Insurance, which is a current asset account. Beginning in January it will be moved to Insurance Expense at the rate of $2,000 per month. The deferral was necessary to match the $12,000 to the proper year and months that the insurance is expiring and the company in receiving the insurance protection.

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