William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Certified Business Valuation Analyst
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Sage Master Builder Consultant

Percentage-of-Completion Method of Construction Accounting
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Hartford Construction Accountants CPA
The Percentage-of-Completion Method

The percentage-of-completion method is generally the required method of financial and tax accounting of larger construction companies for long-term contracts. Its justification relies largely on the matching principle in accounting, where revenues and expenses are matched in the applicable accounting period.

The percentage-of-completion method attempts to recognize revenues and gross profit in the applicable periods of construction, and not soley in the period when the construction has been completed, as in the completed contract method. The degree of completion of the construction, i.e., the percentage-of-completion, is typically estimated by dividing the total construction costs incurred to date by the total estimated costs of the contract, or job.

% complete = Total construction costs to date/Total estimated costs of contract

Total estimated revenues or gross profit is then multiplied by this percentage of completion to derive the total revenues or gross profit that have been earned to date.

Gross profit to date = % complete X Total estimated gross profit

The journal entry required to recognize the current year's revenues or gross profit is the difference between total revenues or gross profit earned to date less revenues or gross profit recognized in prior years.

Current year's gross profit = Gross profit to date - Gross profit in prior years

To illustrate the accounting under the percentage-of-completion method of constructing accounting, assume the following:

Contract = $100,000 Total estimated costs = $80,000 Year 1 costs = $20,000
Year 1 billings = $30,000 Year 2 costs = $40,000 Year 2 billings = $50,000

During year 1, costs are accumulated in an asset account typically entitled Construction in Process (CIP):

Construction in Process

     Accounts Payable (or Cash)


During year 1, billings are posted to a contra account to Construction in Process, often entitled Progress Billings:

Contracts Receivable

     Progress Billings


To compute the percentage of completion, one divides the costs to date by the total estimated costs:

% complete = 20,000/80,000 = 25%

Of course, total estimated gross profit is merely the difference between the contract price less total estimated costs:

Total estimated gross profit = 100,000 - 80,000 = 20,000

Gross profit to date is computed multiplying the percent complete by the estimated gross profit:

Gross profit to date = 25% X 20,000 = 5,000

The following journal entry is made to reflect the gross profit, revenues and expenses on the contract for year 1:

Construction in Process

Construction Expenses

     Construction Revenues


For year 2, gross profit is derived as follows:

% complete = 60,000/80,000 = 75%

Current year's gross profit = 75% X 20,000 - 5,000 = 10,000

And the following journal entry is made to reflect the gross profit, revenues and expenses on the contract for year 2:

Construction in Process

Construction Expenses

     Construction Revenues


Of course, the above illustration is a very simplified example of the percentage-of-completion method ignoring many events, including change orders, changes in estimates, and the like.

For further information or questions on the percentage-of-completion method of accounting as well as a more general and conceptual understanding of its methodology, please see the article, The Percentage-of-Completion Method of Accounting for Long-Term Construction Contracts According to ARB No. 45 and SOP 81-1, by William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant.

Have a tax, a QuickBooks, or an accounting question?  Please feel free to submit it under "Comments" on our blog, Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by the Barefoot Accountant: William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC.  For information and assistance on any tax, QuickBooks, or accounting issue, please visit our website:  Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC. Please visit our sister website, Intense Flavors, and see how you can have a gourmet meal on us when we do your accounting, QuickBooks, and taxes.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  The above tax advice was written to support the promotion or marketing of the accounting practice of the publisher and any transaction described herein.  The taxpayer recipients of this offering memorandum should seek tax advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.


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