In business, one may come across the cash accounting method, also known as cash-basis accounting, during the accounting period. The cash method of accounting is used where payments are recorded as revenues when cash is received, and expenses are recorded when cash is spent. This means that revenues can be registered in the financial statement during one accounting period, while expenses can be registered in the financial statement during another accounting period, regardless of the matching principle under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This situation limits the use of the cash accounting method to small businesses.
As one of the two basic methods of accounting, the cash accounting method is the simplest and less expensive of the two, perfect for the use of small businesses. The reason for that is the fact that it provides an accurate image of the business’ financial situation at that exact moment. It shows a company how much money they have on hand at that moment.
More prominent companies and corporations, however, are not allowed to use other accounting methods than the accrual method of accounting as it respects the generally accepted accounting principles. Small businesses are allowed to choose the type of accounting method they want to use. While the accrual method is more complex and expensive, the cash method can generate delays in the company’s books as it doesn’t give a broader picture of its financial situation.
Furthermore, the IRS prohibits using the cash accounting method for companies with an annual gross income of over $25 million, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 forbids companies that have shareholders and partnerships from using it as well. It should be noted that the accounting method used for tax purposes must be the same as the one used for internal booking.