Definition of Interest Expense
Assuming the accrual method of accounting, interest expense is the amount of interest that was incurred on debt during a period of time. Interest Expense is also the title of the income statement account that is used to record the interest incurred. Lastly, interest expense is usually a separate line on a company's income statement that indicates the amount that occurred during the period appearing in the heading of the income statement.
Definition of Interest Payable
Interest payable is the amount of interest the company has incurred but has not yet paid as of the date of the balance sheet. Interest Payable is also the title of the current liability account that is used to record and report this amount.
Examples of Interest Expense and Interest Payable
To illustrate the difference between interest expense and interest payable, let's assume that a company borrows $200,000 on November 1 at an annual interest rate of 6%. The company is required to pay each month's interest on the 15th day of the following month. Therefore, the November interest of $1,000 ($200,000 x 6% x 1/12) is to be paid on December 15. The $1,000 of interest incurred during December is to be paid on January 15. Therefore, as of December 31, the company's current liability account Interest Payable must report $1,000 for December's interest. For the two-month period, the company will report Interest Expense of $2,000 (November's and December's interest of $1,000 each month).