Construction Accounting 101: A Basic Guide for Contractors

  15. März 2021, von Sebastian

construction accounting 101

An accounts receivable aging report lists the amounts due from customers and shows how long it’s been since the invoices were created. A customer may withhold a specified amount from the contract price until satisfied with the completed work. Doing so gives the customer some leverage over the contractor to complete the work in a satisfactory manner. These retainage amounts may still be recorded as receivables, but could be classified as long-term receivables if the customer has the right to hold these amounts for more than a year.

What is GAAP construction accounting?

Construction accounting is a specialized type of accounting tailored to accurately reflect the unique nature of the construction business. Construction accounting is a subset of project accounting, and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) still apply to those who must comply with those standards.

While you can prepare adjusting journal entries yourself if you’re comfortable doing so, we recommend working with an accountant or CPA to make sure your books are accurate and complete. At the end of the accounting period, you’ll need to prepare adjusting construction bookkeeping journal entries to make sure that the transactions you’ve recorded match up to the right accounting period. Keeping thorough records and categorizing business transactions properly in this way will help you to make smart financial decisions.

Construction Accounting 101: A Basic Guide for Contractors

In construction, COGS is not as simple as noting how much a product costs. There are likely dozens of direct and indirect costs across the various service categories mentioned above on any given job. Tracking them accurately can be tricky but getting it right is essential since it helps with job costing for future construction projects.

  • Learn more about how we serve the construction industry and the features we’ve created to help you stay on top of all the moving parts in your business.
  • Aging is usually split into categories for 30, 60, and 90-plus days since the invoice was created.
  • Cash accrual accounting recognizes expenses and revenue in the time they are incurred before any money changes hands.
  • Since contractors are project-based businesses, accurately determining the cost of every project is key to managing profitability.
  • Much of the work of construction accountants is involved with tracking the individual projects that make up most contractors’ workloads.
  • Construction companies also have to watch that they don’t overpay on unemployment tax when an employee works in multiple states.

Construction accounting, like all accounting, has to follow the processes and procedures accepted by the accounting and business industries. These processes are called GAAP , and are the basis for the “rules” of accounting. We’ve compiled a handy list of common construction accounting mistakes to avoid and general best practices to follow. Tom is the creator of the AIM Framework and Accounting Impact Method. Plus, you’ll have all the tools you need to stay on top of your construction accounting and make smarter financial decisions.

Percent complete vs completed contract income recognition

Modern accounting software can simplify financial management while helping contractors comply with tax laws. Good construction accounting software should automate much of the otherwise laborious work of job costing. By managing accounts receivable and accounts payable, software can help contractors ensure they collect what they’re owed and stay on good terms with suppliers. Construction accounting software should also help to ensure accurate tax filings, with enough flexibility to support the range of revenue recognition methods used by the construction industry.

When states have a reciprocity relationship, however, the worker’s state of residence may issue credit for taxes paid on income earned out of state. That way, they don’t pay twice, but this requires careful attention to time cards and pay stubs. Working on job sites in multiple cities and states, employees may have multiple tax withholdings all within a single payroll. A unit-price contract is an arrangement in which the client pays a specific price for each unit of output.

Fixed Price

That’s to track accurate costs for each project individually, as well as the types of expenses and production activities that make up job costs. These numerous, temporary cost centers are ultimately why contractors need to practice job costing. Unlike some other businesses, construction companies often allow customers a longer period to pay an invoice.

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Therefore, the accuracy of bookkeeping and accounting plays a crucial role to give a full insight into their financial health and support to making informed business decisions. A solid accounting function contributes to the success of any construction company. Construction accounting requires specialized skills to support the construction industry’s unique practices in areas such as job costing, retainage and revenue recognition.

What Is in a Labor Contract?

If your construction business follows generally accepted accounting principles, you should use the percentage of completion method for financial statements as well. While most accounting solutions,such as QuickBooks, offer at least these three types of financial reports, some offer additional financial reporting options. It’s worth comparing top construction accounting software solutions to see which financial statements you need. Unlike product sales, where companies recognize revenue when a widget is sold, bookkeeping and accounting in construction have different ways when it comes to revenue recognition.

construction accounting 101

Businesses in other industries typically have accounting teams that keep track of products in various categories—but not contractors. In the construction industry, there are a variety of line items included across several jobs. Keeping track of all the moving parts and separate demands for each project requires keen attention to detail and effective communication across all teams.


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