Construction Accounting Guide: Methods, Tips & Software

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Construction Accounting Guide: Methods, Tips & Software,, imagine 1

construction accounting methods

Administrative costs are not charged to a construction project unless this is allowed by the customer. Construction accounting is a specialized form of accounting that reflects the unique characteristics of the construction business. Job costing is the underpinning of this specialty, reflecting the unique components of each construction contract. New GAAP guidance — ASC 606 — has introduced the concept of performance obligations and transfer of control into the variety of existing methods for revenue recognition. And the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made significant changes in classification criteria for small and large contractors.

This process is quite different from that of a typical manufacturer, which might think about product profitability based on sales and production expenses. Job costing applies to both direct costs, like materials and labor, as well as indirect costs, such as equipment and utilities. So, contractors face a variety of construction accounting requirements, and the first on G2’s list is job costing. Job costing is the act of assessing a project’s total cost, including labor, materials, and overhead. Because contractors work on multiple projects at a time, it’s vital that they track expenses, resources, and workforces for each individual project—and do so accurately. This data helps them estimate potential profitability and control costs for future projects.


Prevailing wage legislation requires contractors to pay the rate of compensation that’s standard, or “prevails,” for each worker classification on similar jobs in the area. Contractors must then certify their compliance on each project using certified payroll reports that may vary between different states or agencies. Time-and-material billing bases the contract price on a per-hour labor rate plus the cost of materials used. For both the labor and materials components, the contractor may apply a standard markup. This builds their profit percentage into the amount and accounts for the cost of overhead.

construction accounting methods

The method works best when it is reasonably possible to estimate the stages of project completion on an ongoing basis, or at least to estimate the remaining costs to complete a project. Long-term contracts are those that span more than one fiscal year and require special treatment for both GAAP accounting and IRS tax purposes. Two common methods for accounting for long-term contracts are the percentage of completion method and construction bookkeeping the completed contract method, which are both accrual-based. Under the cash basis of revenue recognition, income is recognized when cash is received from a sale or contract. This method of revenue recognition is simple and straightforward, and it’s often used by small businesses that don’t have complex accounting processes in place. The completed contracts method is a simpler version of the percentage of completion method.

Percentage of Completion

From change orders and retainage to weather delays and customer disputes, there are many reasons construction projects cannot be billed on a traditional production timeline. The varying construction accounting methods take those factors into account to minimize interruptions to cash flow. The completed contract method involves reporting all project revenue, expenses, and profit only once a contract is completed in full, although payments may be received during the duration of a project.

Cash in is immediately counted as revenue which can be used to cover expenses. It ignores proposed payment schedules and only acknowledges revenue and expenses in accounts payable or receivable. The accrual basis follows the matching principle of accounting, recognizing revenue in the period earned, not when received, and expenses in the period incurred, not when paid. This method uses revenue accruals, such as accounts receivable, and expense accruals, such as accounts payable, to capture transactions regardless of when money changes hands. The basic principles of construction accounting include tracking job costs and revenue recognition.

Methods of accounting

Contractors who use the percentage-of-completion method need to „look back” when the contract is done. Industrial and commercial painters, engineers, architects, and construction management businesses are not required to use the PCM. A higher number indicates that each dollar of working capital spent is leading to more revenue generated in sales. Across the construction industry, average working capital turnover ranges from 5 to 15 depending on specialization. Ideal debt-to-equity for most companies is between 1 and 2, and companies with a debt-to-equity ratio higher than 2 may be unable to pay off its debts.

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.

In general, a construction business with gross receipts over $10 million must use the percentage of completion revenue recognition method for tax purposes. A construction business with gross receipts under $10 million can use the completed contract method on construction projects that last less than two years. They’re only required to use the percentage of completion method for construction contracts that extend over two years. Methods include cash and accrual, and more specifically, accrual methods include percentage of completion and completed contract method. The answer to that will mostly depend on your size in revenue, but in this article, we will highlight some of the important aspects of each. These options may create tax deferral opportunities for construction contractors.

Project Management

The practice of retainage, aka retention, has a tremendous impact on the construction industry. We are a subcontractor and the GC we are working for is asking us to sign and notarize progress payment line waivers for amounts they have not paid us for, is this legal? An estimates vs actuals report breaks down a project into parts and analyzes whether costs are above or below the estimate for that scope of work. It shows the overall budget position of a project, as well as a detailed report showing specific phases or trades. An earned value report analyzes the difference between the estimated costs and actual costs over the schedule of a project. It can show both budget and schedule savings and overruns over the life of a project.

Which cost accounting method is used for construction work?

Construction job costing is a detailed accounting method used to calculate track and assign expenses to specific projects and monitor budgets. Costs typically fall into one of three categories: labor, materials and overhead. Costs can be either direct or indirect. Construction job costing is inherently complex.

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