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What are prepaid expenses?

Prepaid expenses are future expenses that have been paid in advance. You can think of prepaid expenses as costs that have been paid but have not yet been used up or have not yet expired.

The amount of prepaid expenses that have not yet expired are reported on a company's balance sheet as an asset. As the amount expires, the asset is reduced and an expense is recorded for the amount of the reduction. Hence, the balance sheet reports the unexpired costs and the income statement reports the expired costs. The amount reported on the income statement should be the amount that pertains to the time interval shown in the statement's heading.

A common prepaid expense is the six-month premium for insurance on a company's vehicles. Since the insurance company requires payment in advance, the amount paid is often recorded in the current asset account Prepaid Insurance. If the company issues monthly financial statements, its income statement will report Insurance Expense that is one-sixth of the amount paid. The balance in the account Prepaid Insurance will be reduced by the amount that was debited to Insurance Expense.