How do you record a payment for insurance?

Definition of Payment for Insurance

A company's property insurance, liability insurance, business interruption insurance, etc. often covers a one-year period with the cost (insurance premiums) paid in advance. The one-year period for the insurance rarely coincides with the company's accounting year. Therefore, the insurance payments will likely involve more than one annual financial statement and many interim financial statements.

Prepaid Insurance vs. Insurance Expense

When the insurance premiums are paid in advance, they are referred to as prepaid. At the end of any accounting period, the amount of the insurance premiums that remain prepaid should be reported in the current asset account, Prepaid Insurance. The prepaid amount will be reported on the balance sheet after inventory and could part of an item described as prepaid expenses.

As the prepaid amount expires, the balance in Prepaid Insurance is reduced by a credit to Prepaid Insurance and a debit to Insurance Expense. This is done with an adjusting entry at the end of each accounting period (e.g. monthly). One objective of the adjusting entry is to match the proper amount of insurance expense to the period indicated on the income statement.

Example of Payment for Insurance Expense

Let's assume that a company is started on December 1 and arranges for business insurance to begin on December 1. On December 1 the company pays the insurance company $12,000 for the insurance premiums covering one year. The company will record the payment with a debit of $12,000 to Prepaid Insurance and a credit of $12,000 to Cash.

On December 31, the company writes an adjusting entry to record the insurance expense that was used up (expired) and to reduce the amount that remains prepaid. This is accomplished with a debit of $1,000 to Insurance Expense and a credit of $1,000 to Prepaid Insurance. This same adjusting entry will be prepared at the end of each of the next 11 months.

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