Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Income Recognition

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Income Recognition

Article excerpt

The courts have uniformly held that generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are not determinative of tax rules. Whether a taxpayer recognized income for financial statement purposes is irrelevant in deciding whether he or she must report the income on a tax return. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently analyzed when a taxpayer must report a cash advance volume discount as income.

Westpac, a partnership formed by three grocery store chains to purchase and warehouse inventory, signed four contracts, each specifying a quantity of inventory to be purchased. Each contract also provided Westpac a cash advance and a repayment obligation on a pro rata basis if the partnership failed to purchase the quantity specified. Westpac booked the advances as liabilities, and it reduced the cost of goods sold by a percentage of the advance as goods were purchased. The government reclassified the advances as income when received. The Tax Court sided with the IRS and held that Westpac should have reported the advances as income. The taxpayer appealed the decision.

Result. For the taxpayer. The question before the court was whether a discount received in the form of a cash advance was income in the year received. The court found Indianapolis Power & Light Co. and Automobile Club of Michigan provided the answer, though neither one was exactly on point.

In Indianapolis Power, 493 US 203, the Supreme Court ruled that a deposit was not income because there was an obligation to repay the money when the services ended. …

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