An accounting method is a set of rules under which revenues and expenses are reported in financial statements. The choice of accounting method can result in differing amounts of profit being reported in the short-term. Over the long-term, the choice of accounting method has a reduced impact on profitability.
Accounting Method is the method by which income and expenses are reported for taxation purposes. The Internal Revenue Service requires taxpayers to choose an accounting method that accurately reflects their income and to be consistent in their choice of accounting method from year to year. IRS approval is required to change methods. The chosen accounting method is based on regulation and tax minimization strategies.
The primary accounting methods are the accrual basis of accounting and the cash basis of accounting. Under the accrual basis, revenue is recognized when earned, and expenses are recognized when consumed. Accrual basis accounting is required for publicly-held entities, and for any organization that wants to have its financial statements audited. This is considered the most theoretically correct accounting method, but also requires a greater knowledge of accounting, and so is less likely to be used by smaller organizations.
The other main accounting method is the cash basis of accounting. Under the cash basis, revenue is recognized when cash is received from customers, and expenses are recognized when cash is paid to suppliers. This method is more likely to result in lumpy profitability in any given period, since a large cash inflow or outflow can sharply alter profits.
There are also variations on the cash and accrual methods that are considered to be hybrid accounting methods. These may be allowable under special circumstances, but will not normally result in financial statements that can be audited.
Accounting methods refer to the basic rules and guidelines under which businesses keep their financial records and prepare their financial reports. There are two main accounting methods used for record-keeping: the cash basis and the accrual basis. Small business owners must decide which method to use depending on the legal form of the business, its sales volume, whether it extends credit to customers, whether it maintains an inventory, and the tax requirements set forth by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Some form of record-keeping is required by law and for tax purposes, but the resulting information can also be useful to managers in assessing the company’s financial situation and making decisions. It is possible to change accounting methods later, but the process can be complicated. Therefore it is important for small business owners to decide which method to use up front based on what will be most suitable for their particular business.