What Do You Know About Gift Card Accounting?

March 3, 2021

The journal entry to record gift card breakage revenue is to debit deferred revenue and credit breakage revenue. Since gift card and certificate sales are not stock definition and meaning revenue, they are recorded as a liability on the balance sheet. All businesses issuing cards or certificates should maintain a matching bank account asset.

  • You will need to perform frequent audits and checks to ensure all transactions involving gift cards are recorded accurately according to accounting standards.
  • For example, New Jersey, New York and Florida all offer a unique take on escheatment.
  • The journal entry is debiting gift card liability $ 10,000 and credit sales revenue $ 10,000.
  • Gift cards and gift certificates are not only popular gifts but can be a great source of income for your restaurant.

As a merchant selling gift cards on your Shopify store, you need to be aware of the potential risks and fraud involved with offering gift cards. Gift cards are essentially cash, so gift card numbers and PINs can easily be stolen and used illegally if not properly secured. It is important to enable security features like requiring customer info with gift card purchases, using secure servers to store data, and regular monitoring for any suspicious gift card activity.

What is the Accounting for Gift Cards?

As stated above, gift cards are deferred revenue until the gift card is redeemed. Gift card purchases are generally classified as a deferred revenue liability. The cash received from the sale is paid upfront but does not qualify for revenue recognition as no goods or services have been exchanged.

Escheatment is the process that which unclaimed assets are required to transfer to the government or state. When your customer is ready to redeem their gift certificate, you’ll create an invoice in QuickBooks to track it. Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Double Entry Bookkeeping. He has worked as an accountant and consultant for more than 25 years and has built financial models for all types of industries. He has been the CFO or controller of both small and medium sized companies and has run small businesses of his own. He has been a manager and an auditor with Deloitte, a big 4 accountancy firm, and holds a degree from Loughborough University.

If you handle the books for any retailers or even service providers, the answer is likely yes. And to take care of these clients, you need to understand gift card accounting. When a gift card is not used, the funds must be remitted to the applicable state government; the company cannot retain the cash. This requirement is stated under local escheatment laws that cover unclaimed property.

Journal Entry for Gift Card Sales

Gift cards or gift vouchers are prepaid cards that consist of specific amount of cash that can be used to purchase in a specific store. Beyond this step, process the refund the same as you typically would for any return. It is necessary that you carefully log the adjustment to the gift card liability balance to keep this account reconciled and prevent errors. Though handling gift card refunds may require extra care, this will ensure your store maintains compliance and operating smoothly. This is called breakage, which in essence is the portion of gift card sales that will never be redeemed.

Accounting for gift card cost

Taxpayers issuing gift cards in exchange for returned goods may treat the issuance of gift cards as a cash payment, with approval from the IRS. On top of that, there are specific provincial and territorial rules your clients may need to follow. Similarly, Ontario has unique rules for multi-store or mall gift cards.

Accounting For Gift Cards

In addition to a financial loss for the gift-giver and the recipient, unused gift cards breed an array of accounting issues related to redemption – or lack thereof. Holiday seasons bring joy and excitement to all with colorful autumn trees, family gatherings and festive decorations. It’s also a time for bustling gift card sales and various promotions, especially when it comes to restaurant entities!


Not only are gift cards great as presents, they offer an upselling opportunity and give customers a unique way to support their favourite small businesses. In times of uncertainty, many e-commerce businesses have looked to gift cards as a way to supplement cash flow. The journal entry is debiting cash of $ 200,000 and credit gift card liability $ 200,000. The gift card allows the customer to transfer the card as a gift from one person to another. It allows the receiver to use and purchase whatever they want in the store.

The journal entry to record this transaction is $100 to cash, $120 to deferred revenue liability and $20 to gift card promotion liability (contra liability to gift card deferred revenue). The company will also do this same process for its prior year gift card sales except instead of using its first-year redemption ratio, it will use the second-year redemption ratio. The company will continue this process for each year of gift card sales in which 100% of breakage revenue has not been recognized. Generally, this process is done for five to seven years of gift card sales. Gift cards and gift certificates are not only popular gifts but can be a great source of income for your restaurant. Becoming familiar with a few of the basic rules and best practices can go a long way in simplifying the accounting process.

The transaction starts when the company sells the gift card to the customer. They will receive cash immediately, they also have the obligation to provide the goods or services in the future. For example, Company A runs a holiday special in which the purchase of $100 gift card results in a promotional $20 gift card being given to the purchaser.

Therefore, researching different gift cards systems available prior to entering a contract is wise. ASC 606 requires breakage revenue to be recognized ratably over the life of the gift card. This requires a company to track gift card sales and redemption rates and calculate the ratio of gift cards recognized each year. There is no doubt gift cards and certificates – in their paper, plastic and digital forms – are here to stay. And, based on recent trends, they will continue to gain even greater traction.

In the above example, 400 was redeemed and the estimated breakage revenue, based on this redemption is 100. The revenue of 100 can now be recognized and this amount is transferred from the gift card liability account to the income statement revenue account. The business has supplied the goods to the customer and the revenue can now be recognized. The amount of 400 is transferred from the gift cards liability account (deferred revenue) in the balance sheet, to the revenue account in the income statement. When a gift card is actually redeemed, we can then recognise a sales transaction. We can now CR the sales account, usually a revenue account, as well as CR the tax account, assuming you’re in a region where tax is recorded only once a gift card is used.

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