Accrue Vs Incur

Accrue vs Incur: Understanding the Difference

When it comes to finances, understanding the difference between accruing and incurring expenses is crucial. Both terms refer to costs, but they have different implications for financial management. In this article, we will look at what accrue and incur mean, their differences, and how they can affect your business or personal finances.

Accrue Definition

Accrue refers to the accumulation of expenses over time. It means that expenses are being incurred but not paid at the moment. Instead, these costs are recorded as accounts payable, and payment is expected at a later date. Accrual accounting is a common method of recording these transactions.

For example, let’s say you hired a contractor to work on your house. If the contractor works for a month but is not paid until the end of the contract, the costs are considered accrued expenses. The contractor will not receive the payment until the end of the work, and you will record the expense as an accounts payable on your balance sheet.

Accrued expenses can include salaries, wages, utilities, and rent.

Incur Definition

Incur refers to expenses that have been already paid. The payment could be a cash payment or paid through financing, like credit cards or loans. Incurring an expense means that the cost is now a liability, and it must be accounted for on the balance sheet.

For example, if you pay your rent on the first of every month, the rent is considered an incurred expense. This expense will be recorded on the income statement as rent paid.

Another example could be a business incurring the cost of purchasing a machine for its production process. This expense is recorded on the balance sheet and is considered a long-term asset.

Key Differences Between Accrue and Incur

The key difference between accrue and incur lies in the timing of the expense recognition. Accrued expenses are incurred but are not paid at the moment, while incurred expenses are paid and have become a liability.

Another difference is the recording method used. Accrued expenses are recorded in the balance sheet as accounts payable, while incurred expenses are recorded on the income statement as expenses paid.

Accrual accounting is common for businesses as it provides a clear picture of financial performance over time. It also makes it easier to recognize expenses that have been incurred but not yet paid.

Impacts on Financial Management

Understanding the difference between accruing and incurring expenses is crucial for financial management. Here are some potential impacts of each:

Accrued expenses can impact cash flow as they represent a liability that must be paid at a later date. As such, you need to keep track of your accounts payable and ensure that you have enough cash flow to meet these obligations when they are due.

Incurring expenses can impact profitability as they are recorded on the income statement as expenses paid. It’s essential to manage expenses and ensure that they don’t exceed the revenue generated. This ensures that the business remains profitable.

When managing expenses, it’s essential to consider the difference between short-term and long-term expenses. Short-term expenses, such as rent, are incurred over a short period and have an immediate impact on cash flow. Long-term expenses, such as purchasing a machine, are incurred over a more extended period and may impact cash flow over time.


Understanding the difference between accruing and incurring expenses is essential for managing finances effectively. Accrued expenses are incurred but not yet paid, while incurred expenses have been paid and are now a liability. Each type of expense has implications for financial management, cash flow, and profitability, so it’s important to keep track of both. With a solid understanding of these terms and their impacts, you can make better financial decisions for your business or personal finances.