Insights Into Revenue Recognition In Financial Reporting

A company’s financial reporting integrity directly depends on accurate revenue recognition, so it is essential. The revenue recognition guidance aims to harmonize the revenue policies used by businesses. This standardization makes it simple for outside parties, such as analysts and investors, to compare the income statements of various businesses operating in the same sector. Financial statements must be reliable and consistent because revenue is one of the key metrics investors use to evaluate a company’s performance.

What is Revenue Recognition?

Revenue, also known as your business’s total income before any expenses, is probably something you already understand. Still, you might not be as familiar with the accounting definition of recognition. An event or transaction is formally recorded in the company’s financial statements when it is “recognized” in accounting.

According to the accrual basis of accounting, revenue must be recorded as earned. Now some of you must be wondering at what point a company’s revenue becomes “earned”? The delivery of the product or service to the customer is an example of a critical event that necessitates the recognition of revenue. Revenue recognition is simple if your company uses the cash basis of accounting: you realize revenue as soon as money enters your cash register or bank account.

Five-Step Process for Revenue Recognition

– Identify the Contract with Customers

Both the buyer and the seller must be prepared to fulfill their contractual obligations at this point. The agreement’s purpose is to specify the rights and payment obligations of the parties concerning the exchanged goods or services. Additionally, the credit risk associated with the customer is assessed. In this step, entities must identify all potential performance obligations.

– Identify the Performance Obligations

If a contract has multiple performance obligations, the business must divide the transaction price among them based on the standalone selling price of the good or service in question. The last stage is the satisfaction of performance obligations, at which point revenue is recognized upon completion of the contract’s performance requirements.

This means;

1. Control is considered fully transferred when a customer fully receives the goods or services promised. The business can now acknowledge the revenue.

2. Satisfaction of performance commitments over time: A business records revenue when it gradually loses control of a good or service.

– Determine the Transaction Price

The “transaction price” includes more than just the cash you exchange with a customer for a good or service. The ability to return items or potential discounts are some examples. Always be clear about these conditions, especially if they differ from previous practice. If you provide a discount for e-commerce purchases during your semi-annual sale, both the discount and the option to return or cancel the contract are included in the transaction price.

Allot the Transaction Price to Performance Obligations

Once the contract is complete, you can price each performance obligation. These prices must be determined using relative standalone selling prices (SSP), which must be consistent with the costs of comparable goods and services. You can estimate the cost in case the SSP cannot be identified.

Recognize Revenue as The Entity Satisfies A Performance Obligation

There should be no revenue recognized until your performance obligation is finished. Consider the amount as “deferred revenue” if your customer has already paid you for goods or services in your possession or control. You can record the revenue once you’ve given your customer control of the product or service.

The performance obligation for subscription businesses may be fulfilled over time. If so, you can spread out revenue recognition over the service period. Similar business models exist when a service is rendered over time but can be assessed in other ways, such as costs, labor hours, or external milestones achieved.

How Can Revenue Recognition Go Wrong?

Projects Finished Over A Period of Time

Infrastructure projects, for example, can have fixed or variable costs, shifting deadlines, and inaccurate cash receipts or expense payments. Because of this, it is challenging to determine how much revenue should be recorded when and when.

Projects with Several Deliverables

Consider a phone, for instance. Yes, consumers purchase it as a whole, but it also has various delivery-required components, such as hardware, software, and support. It can be difficult to quantify the revenues these generate because of their interdependence. Revenues and expenses should be properly matched, and for this to happen, costs must be completely understood and quantifiable.

Incorrect Identification of Performance Obligations

This is the second step in the revenue recognition process, so keep that in mind. There are two requirements for a product or service to be deemed distinct in this step. The second must consider the first. When a good or service benefits the customer directly, the first requirement is satisfied. According to the second requirement, the good or service must be distinct from other contractual obligations. The goal is to determine whether the company promises to deliver the good or service separately or as a package under a single performance obligation. Since it’s challenging to change these performance obligations once they’ve been identified, doing so correctly is crucial.

Inaccurate Contract Modification

A product or service’s standalone selling price (SSP) is decided upon when a contract is created. When SSP cannot be determined, a business may need to estimate its value. It’s crucial to ensure that the contract’s modifications are accurately recorded. To accomplish this, the existing contract may be closed, a new one may be created, or the modifications may be treated as an integral part.

Is Revenue Recognition Important for Small-sized Businesses?

Yes, small businesses must comprehend revenue recognition and its guiding principles. Many small businesses still follow GAAP even though many are private and therefore not required to. From a financing perspective, GAAP financial statements are usually understood by lenders and investors, providing authenticity to the financial reporting and the firm as a whole. As a result, having financial statements and revenue recognition practices that adhere to GAAP can increase funding options and sources, often at a lower cost, making it simpler to start and grow a business.

Companies that already follow GAAP may find the transition easier when they eventually decide to go public. A private company’s ownership and capital structure will change when it goes public, and investors with different investment philosophies, more accounting resources, and restricted access to management will all be present. To comply with the filing’s regulatory requirements, the company must do so immediately. This may involve filing GAAP accounting statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also Read: Benefits of Streamlining Close, Consolidation and Reporting