Revenue Recognition in construction


How to calculate revenue recognition in construction

In the construction industry, revenue recognition plays a crucial role in financial reporting. Construction companies often work on long-term projects involving complex contracts, making it essential to have a thorough understanding of revenue recognition principles.

Revenue Contracts

Revenue contracts in construction typically involve agreements between the company and its clients. These contracts outline the scope of work, project timeline, payment terms, and other important details. It is crucial to carefully review and understand these contracts as they serve as the foundation for revenue recognition.

Construction contracts can be categorized into three types:

  1. Fixed Price Contracts: In this type of contract, the price is determined upfront, and the client agrees to pay a fixed amount for the completed project. Revenue recognition for fixed price contracts usually occurs upon completion or significant milestones of the project.
  2. Cost-Plus Contracts: Cost-plus contracts involve reimbursement of costs incurred by the contractor along with an agreed-upon percentage or fee. Revenue recognition for cost-plus contracts typically occurs as costs are incurred, and the appropriate markup or fee is applied.
  3. Time and Material Contracts: Time and material contracts involve billing clients based on the number of hours worked and the materials used. Revenue recognition for such contracts usually occurs as work is performed and costs are incurred.

Revenue Recognition in Construction: Methods for Recognizing Revenue in Construction Contracts

Methods for Recognizing Revenue in Construction Contracts

The proper recognition of revenue ensures accurate financial reporting and compliance with accounting standards. In this article, we will explore various methods for recognizing revenue in construction contracts.

Percentage of Completion Method

The percentage of completion method is widely used in the construction industry to recognize revenue. Under this method, revenue is recognized proportionately as work progresses on a project. This means that revenue is recognized based on the percentage of completion of the contract. The formula for determining the percentage of completion is:

Percentage of Completion = (Costs Incurred to Date) / (Total Estimated Costs)

Using this method, construction companies can recognize revenue based on their actual progress rather than waiting until the completion of the entire project. It provides a more accurate representation of the revenue earned during each period.

Completed Contract Method

The completed contract method is an alternative to the percentage of completion method. Under this method, revenue is recognized only when a contract is deemed complete. This means that revenue is not recognized until the project is finished, and all costs have been incurred. This method is often used when it is difficult to estimate the total costs or when the project is short-term in nature.

While the completed contract method may be simpler to apply, it can lead to fluctuations in revenue recognition, especially for long-term projects. It may also result in delayed revenue recognition until the project’s completion, which may impact cash flow and financial planning.

Cost Recovery Method

The cost recovery method is used when significant uncertainties exist around the collection of contract revenue. Under this method, revenue is recognized only after all costs have been recovered. This means that revenue recognition is deferred until the point where there is a reasonable assurance of recovering costs and making a profit.

The cost recovery method is often used in construction contracts where there are substantial risks related to the project’s success or the client’s ability to pay. It provides a conservative approach to revenue recognition, ensuring that revenue is not recognized prematurely.

Contract Modification and Change Order Impact

In construction projects, it is common for modifications or change orders to occur during the contract period. These changes can impact the revenue recognition process. Generally, any modifications or change orders that increase the contract price will result in additional revenue recognition. Conversely, modifications or change orders that decrease the contract price will reduce the revenue already recognized.

It is essential for construction companies to carefully assess and document the impact of contract modifications or change orders on revenue recognition. Failure to do so accurately can lead to misstatements in financial statements and potential non-compliance with accounting standards.

Impact on Financial Statements

Proper revenue recognition is vital for accurately reflecting a construction company’s financial position. Revenue recognition affects key financial statements such as the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

On the income statement, recognized revenue influences the reported revenue and profitability of the company. It allows stakeholders to assess the company’s performance and make informed decisions.

The balance sheet reflects recognized revenue as accounts receivable (if not yet collected) or as cash. This provides insights into the company’s current assets and liquidity.

Revenue recognition also impacts the cash flow statement as it determines the timing and amount of cash inflows related to completed projects. It assists in evaluating the company’s cash flow generation and ability to meet financial obligations.

Revenue Recognition in Construction: How to Recognize and Record Business Income

How to Recognize and Record Business Income

To ensure transparency and compliance with accounting standards, construction companies need to follow appropriate methods for recognizing and recording their business income.

Contract Accounting Method

The most common method used in construction revenue recognition is the contract accounting method. This method recognizes revenue based on the percentage of completion of a contract. It takes into account the costs incurred, estimated total costs, and progress made on the project.

Under this method, construction companies need to estimate the total revenue and costs associated with a contract at its inception. They also need to determine the percentage of completion regularly throughout the project’s duration. This calculation considers the costs incurred, work completed, and any changes in the contract scope or estimates.

Once the percentage of completion is determined, revenue and expenses are recognized proportionally. For example, if a company has completed 40% of a project, they would recognize 40% of the total estimated revenue and associated costs. This method provides a more accurate representation of revenue earned during each reporting period.

Progress Billing

Construction projects often involve progress billings, where the contractor invoices the customer for work completed up to a specific point. Progress billing helps contractors manage cash flow and recover costs as the project progresses. However, it also affects revenue recognition.

When using progress billing, revenue is recognized based on the percentage of completion as discussed earlier. However, if the amount billed exceeds the revenue recognized, a liability called “billings in excess of costs and estimated earnings” is recorded. Conversely, if the revenue recognized exceeds the amount billed, an asset called “costs and estimated earnings in excess of billings” is recorded.

Change Orders and Variations

Change orders or variations are common in construction projects. They involve modifications to the original contract scope or specifications that impact the overall project cost and schedule. It is crucial for construction companies to handle change orders properly to ensure accurate revenue recognition.

When a change order is agreed upon, construction companies need to assess its impact on the project’s revenue and costs. Any additional revenue or costs resulting from the change order should be recognized separately from the original contract. This ensures that the financial statements reflect the true economic impact of the project, considering both the original contract and any subsequent changes.


Revenue recognition in construction is a complex process that requires careful consideration of revenue contracts and appropriate accounting methods. Construction companies must adhere to general accounting principles and industry-specific guidelines to ensure accurate and transparent financial reporting. By understanding and implementing proper revenue recognition practices, construction firms can effectively manage their finances, demonstrate their value, and maintain the trust of stakeholders.

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