Whether you’re dealing with credit cards or invoices, sometimes it’s difficult to know if your revenue streams will be paid as promised. In situations like these, a company may choose to use the cost recovery method of accounting to recognize revenue without counting the profits until those costs are recovered in cash. This type of revenue recognition is one of the most conservative methods available and poses less risk than other accounting processes.
The process of recognizing revenue through the cost recovery method involves accounting for all of the costs involved in a project or sale. This includes everything from the initial project costs to the materials used in the final product. Once all of these costs have been accounted for, the remaining cash that is expected to be received from the client is counted as gross profit. This method of revenue recognition is usually employed in instances where the profitability of a transaction isn’t immediately guaranteed, such as when customers pay in installments or with checks that take time to clear.
For example, let’s say Sam owns a software development business that has an ongoing project with a client named Gilbert. He’s unsure whether Gilbert will make each of the incremental payments on time or at all. To prevent overestimating his net income, Sam uses the cost recovery method of revenue recognition to account for this situation. When each increment of payment is received, the total project costs are deducted from the total amount received to calculate the portion of gross profit recognized for the sale. This keeps the net income close to operating cash flow and helps to ensure that taxes owed aren’t overstated.
This method of revenue recognition can also be useful when it comes to working with a customer or client that has a history of non-payment. This method is especially helpful for businesses that handle sales through credit cards, as it allows them to record the revenue they expect to receive but defers the profit until all of the costs have been covered by cash.
In the case of a student organization or auxiliary, department leaders should determine whether their activities qualify for cost recovery and if so, decide on a percentage of expenses to recover. Then they can record each expense with a reimbursable project code to automatically trigger invoicing for the end of the fiscal period. This will help to reduce manual processing and make the process more accurate.
Another way to avoid having to manually calculate and process each expense is to work with a vendor that will provide the department with the invoices and payment information it needs. This can help reduce the workload for both staff and students who would otherwise have to spend time tracking each individual expense. However, it’s important for departments to consider their relationship with vendors when deciding to partner with them. This will influence the amount of fees charged for their services and how much revenue they can realistically anticipate receiving.