How to Record Accrued Liabilities with QuickBooks 2012

Very commonly, a business owes money for some goods or services or taxes that must be recorded in the accounting system; QuickBooks 2012 can help you do that. For example, if at the end of an accounting period — say, at the end of the year — you owe $1,200 of interest on some loan, you really need to record that interest expense in your accounting system

For example, you want to record the fact that, although the loan balance may show as $10,000 in your accounting records, you probably really owe $11,200 because you owe both the $10,000 of principal and $1,200 of accrued interest.

To accrue a liability, you use a journal entry like the one shown. This journal entry shows the accrual of $1,200 of interest expense on a loan payable.

Journal Entry 16: Accruing a Liability
Account Debit Credit
Loan interest expense 1,200
Loan interest payable 1,200

The journal entry shows a $1,200 debit to loan interest expense and a $1,200 credit to loan interest payable. This journal entry records amounts that you owe as of the end of the accounting period that don’t get recorded in some other way.

You need to be careful about using journal entries like the one shown in Journal Entry 16. Typically, you want to use such journal entries when it’s very important to count all your expenses and to accurately measure all your liabilities.

One common situation when you want to be especially careful about making such accruals is if you sell your firm. Any prospective purchaser wants to have not only a very good estimate of your true expenses for the accounting period, but the purchaser also wants a very accurate estimate of liabilities at the point in time that the business is being evaluated.

Liability accruals like the one shown in Journal Entry 16 present the accountant or bookkeeper with a problem, however. To return to the example of the accrued interest shown in Journal Entry 16, suppose that at a later point in time, the business makes a $3,000 payment, which includes the interest accrued in Journal Entry 16.

When the accountant or bookkeeper later records this loan payment, he or she must remember or recognize the earlier journal entry. You don’t want the accountant or bookkeeper to double-count interest expense by again recording the same interest. This makes sense, right?

Because accountants and bookkeepers can’t reliably remember these sorts of accrual entries — they may need to recall them months later — they typically back out the effect of the accrual from the first day of the new accounting period.

For example, if Journal Entry 16 was recorded at the end of year 1 to accurately estimate interest expense and liability balances, an accountant or bookkeeper could, on the first day of year 2, enter a reversing journal entry.

This reversing journal entry would credit loan interest expense for $1,200 and debit loan interest payable for $1,200. In other words, this reversing journal entry reverses the earlier accrual. Because the accrual entry is still in year 1, however, year 1’s estimates of interest expense and liability account balances are still correct.

The following table shows how a reversing entry looks. Again, notice that it’s simply the mirror image of Journal Entry 16. The debits and credits are flip-flopped.

Journal Entry 17: Reversing an Accrual
Account Debit Credit
Loan interest expense 1,200
Loan interest payable 1,200

When the actual loan interest payment is made, the journal entry appears as though no accrual or reversal ever existed. The following table shows this. For example, suppose that at some time in year 2 the business pays $1,800 of interest by making a cash payment. Journal Entry 18 shows how this transaction gets recorded.

Journal Entry 18: The “Real” Loan Interest Payment
Account Debit Credit
Loan interest expense 1,800
Cash 1,800
  • Journal Entry 16 enables you to show that, at the end of year 1, the business owes $1,200 of interest on a loan — even though that interest hasn’t yet been paid. Journal Entry 16 also shows that even though the money wasn’t paid, loan interest expense of $1,200 was incurred.

  • Journal Entries 17 and 18 need to be combined to be understood. Journal Entry 17, for example, reduces the loan interest payable to zero. Remember that the loan interest payable would be a balance sheet liability account.

    The combination of the $1,200 debit and credit zero this account out. The $1,200 credit to loan interest expense in Journal Entry 17 must be combined with the $1,800 debit to loan interest expense in Journal Entry 18. This seems funny because after all, aren’t you really paying $1,800 of interest? That’s true.

    But looking back at Journal Entry 16, you can see that you’ve already recorded $1,200 of loan interest expense. That interest expense has been recorded for year 1 in this example. If you have $1,800 of loan interest in total, what’s left over for year 2 is the remaining $600.

    The combination of the $1,200 credit to loan interest expense and the $1,800 debit to loan interest expense produces this $600 of loan interest expense. The only other component of these two journal entries is the $1,800 credit to cash. This credit to cash represents just the actual cash payment that’s made to pay the loan interest amount.

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