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How to account for customer advance payments

It is generally best not to account for a customer advance with an automatically reversing entry, since that will reverse the amount of cash in the following month – and the cash paid is still in the cash account. Instead, manually track the amount in the customer advances account each month, and manually shift amounts to revenue as goods are delivered or services provided. This may require the use of a separate step in the month-end closing procedure, to ensure that the status of each customer advance is investigated on a regular basis.

A customer advance is usually stated as a current liability on the the balance sheet of the seller. However, if the seller does not expect to recognize revenue from an underlying sale transaction within one year, the liability should instead be classified as a long-term liability.

For example, Green Widget Company receives $10,000 from a customer for a customized purple widget. Green Widget records the receipt with a debit of $10,000 to the cash account and a credit of $10,000 to the customer advances account. In the next month, Green delivers the custom widget, and creates a new journal entry that debits the customer advances account for $10,000 and credits the revenue account for $10,000.