When are payroll expenses incurred?
Every business should use the accrual method of accounting, which matches the revenue it earns with the expenses it incurs. The accrual method records payroll expenses in the month that they are incurred, regardless of when you pay for the expenses. This matching concept presents a more accurate picture of company profit. This accounting method does not post expenses based on cash outflows.
Assume that a restaurant owes workers $3,000 in payroll for the last five days of March and that the next payroll date is April 5. Using the accrual method, the $3,000 wage expense is recorded on March 31, along with recording a $3,000 increase in wages payable liability.
When the business owner processes payroll on April 5, cash decreases by $3,000, and wages payable decreases by $3,000. The expense records in March, when employees actually worked those hours. Therefore the March revenue is more closely matched and aligned with its March expenses, including the $3,000 in payroll costs.
Using the accrual method, you record both the wages payable obligation (payroll liability) and expenses in the same period. The restaurant example shows a $3,000 wage expense and a $3,000 wage liability balance posted on March 31. When the business owner pays cash on April 5, the liability balance decreases.