Prepaid Expense

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Definition of 'Prepaid Expense'

A prepaid expense is an expense that is paid for in advance of when it is actually incurred. For example, if you pay your rent for the month of January on December 31st, the January rent is a prepaid expense.

Prepaid expenses are classified as assets on the balance sheet because they represent a future economic benefit. The amount of the prepaid expense is gradually recognized as an expense over time as the benefit is received.

For example, if you pay $1,200 for a one-year insurance policy on January 1st, the prepaid expense would be recorded as an asset of $1,200 on the balance sheet. Each month, $100 of the prepaid expense would be recognized as an expense on the income statement.

Prepaid expenses are important to understand because they can affect the financial statements in a number of ways. For example, prepaid expenses can make a company's net income appear higher than it actually is. This is because the expense is recorded in the current period, even though it will not be used until a future period.

Prepaid expenses can also make a company's balance sheet appear stronger than it actually is. This is because the asset is recorded at its full cost, even though it will be used up over time.

It is important to note that not all expenses that are paid in advance are considered prepaid expenses. For example, if you buy a computer for your business, the cost of the computer would be recorded as an asset on the balance sheet. The computer would not be considered a prepaid expense because it is not an expense that will be used up over time.

Prepaid expenses are a common occurrence in business. It is important to understand how they are accounted for in order to properly interpret financial statements.

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