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Bookkeeping Concepts

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How should the cost of a yearly subscription for a newspaper be recorded?

In theory, the payment in advance for a one-year subscription should initially be recorded as a debit to Prepaid Expenses and a credit to Cash. During the subscription period, you would debit Subscription Expense and would credit Prepaid Expenses. 

For example, if the annual subscription cost is $240 and it is paid in advance, you would initially debit Prepaid Expenses for $240 and credit Cash for $240. If your company issues monthly financial statements, then each month during the subscription period you would debit Subscription Expense for $20 and credit Prepaid Expenses for $20. This results in 1) the matching of $20 to expense on each of the monthly income statements, and 2) the balance sheet reporting the amount that is prepaid or not yet expired.

At a large company, the annual cost of $240 will usually be an immaterial amount. The materiality concept will allow you to violate the matching principle, and to avoid the monthly adjusting entry, by simply debiting Subscription Expense for the entire $240 at the beginning of the one-year subscription period.