Deferred income

Page written by AI. Reviewed internally on March 22, 2024.


Deferred income is a liability recorded on a company’s balance sheet that represents revenue received in advance of being earned.

What is deferred income?

Deferred income refers to the money a company receives for goods or services that it has not yet provided to the customer. It is recognised as a liability on the balance sheet because the company has an obligation to deliver the goods or services in the future. 

As the company fulfils its obligations and delivers the goods or services to the customer, the deferred income is gradually recognised as revenue on the income statement. This recognition typically occurs proportionately over the period during which the goods or services are provided.

Companies are required to disclose the nature and amount of deferred income in their financial statements to provide transparency regarding their future revenue obligations and the timing of revenue recognition.

Deferred income is important for financial analysis as it provides insights into a company’s cash flow, revenue recognition practices, and future performance expectations. It also helps investors and analysts assess the sustainability of a company’s revenue stream and its ability to fulfil its obligations to customers.

Example of deferred income

Let’s say a fitness centre sells annual memberships for £1,200 each. A customer purchases a membership and pays the full amount upfront. Since the membership covers a period of 12 months, the fitness centre hasn’t yet earned all of the revenue received.

At the time of purchase:

  • The fitness centre records £1,200 as deferred income on its balance sheet.
  • The £1,200 payment is initially considered a liability because the fitness centre still owes the customer 12 months of access to the facilities.

Over the next 12 months, as the customer uses the facilities, the fitness centre gradually recognises the deferred income as revenue on its income statement.

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