What is a Deferred Expense?

Definition: Deferred expense, also called a prepaid expense, is a cost that has been incurred but is recorded as an asset until the related goods or services are consumed. In other words, money has been spent on goods or services in the current period, but the goods and services have not been consumed in that period.

What Does Deferred Expense Mean?

What is the definition of deferred expense? Companies that use accrual accountingare handling certain transactions, such as interest costs or depreciation of a fixed asset or costs related to long-term debt, as deferred expenses. Deferred expenses are also known as prepaid expenses because the buyer is paying for goods and services in advance, before using them.

For example, insurance payments are a deferred expense because the buyer pays the insurance in advance before consuming the coverage. Technically, businesses initially record deferred expenses as assets before they become expenses over time.

Let’s look at an example.


Company A pays insurance for its buildings twice a year for a total cost of $14,000. The payments are due in June and December. In June, the company pays $7,000 for the coverage it will receive until December. In fact, the company prepays in June $7,000 for the coverage it will consume over the next six months until December when the next payment is due.

The same company is issuing $20,000,000 of bonds payable that mature in 30 years by deferring a payment of $350,000 in accounting and legal fees. In fact, the company records a bond issue cost of $11,666 for the next 30 years, thereby receiving the benefits of the deferred expense as an asset and recognizing it as an expense at a later accounting period.

Technically, when recording a deferral, the prepayment is accompanied by a related recognized expense in the following accounting period, whereas the same amount is deducted from the prepayment. In the case above, the company should record the deferred expense of $14,000 as an asset in year 1 and recognize it as an expense in year 2. Likewise, the bond cost issue should be recorded as an asset of $350,000 in year 1 and be recognized as an expense in year 2.

Summary Definition

Define Deferred Expense: Deferred expenses means costs that have been incurred in the current period but not consumed until later periods.