What is a warranty?

Most of the products we purchase come with some type of warranty. A warranty is guarantee that the manufacturer of the product will repair or replace the product for a certain period of time. In 2013, I bought my husband a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, because he likes to smoke meat and I like to eat smoked meat. It works out well for everyone! This product came with a 10-year limited warranty. That means that if something breaks because of a defect (not normal wear and tear or abuse), the company will replace the part that broke. This was not something that we purchased in addition to the product. It came with the product as part of the purchase.

Do not confuse standard warranties with extended warranties that consumers purchase for an additional fee.

Why must companies record a liability?

When a company provides a warranty with its product, the company has an obligation to repair or replace the product if it is defective. That obligation generates a liability at the time the product is sold because the company has a liability that starts when the product is sold.

When must the company record the warranty expense?

The matching principle states that a company must match revenue with expenses. If Weber sells a smoker in 2013 but expenses a warranty claim in 2020 (remember it is a 10-year warranty), the company is violating the matching principle. The warranty expense occurs because the sale took place. The expense is a cost of the sale and therefore should be matched with the revenue generated by that sale.

How does the company record an expense for a repair that has not happened yet?

It might seem a little strange to ask a company to record an expense when it hasn’t occurred yet but we have done this many times in accounting. Accounting requires the use of many estimates. Warranties are no exception. Remember when we recorded Bad Debt Expense under the allowance method and had to estimate the expense at the time of the sale? Warranty expense is very similar. We must estimate the expense based on previous company history and record the journal entry.

In order for a company to estimate the warranty expense and liability, we need to know three things:

  • How many units of the product were sold during the period of time we need to record?
  • What percentage of the products sold will need repairs or replacement based on previous experience?
  • What is the average cost of the repair or replacement under warranty?

All of this information is readily available to managers and accounts within the company. To calculate the warranty expense, first figure out how many products will need repair or replacement:

Total number of units sold X Percentage of units that are defective

Next, calculate the cost of repair or replacement for those units:

Units needing repair or replacement X cost per unit to repair or replace

Let’s look at an example to see how a company would estimate and record warranty expense.

Example #1

Hydration-on-the-Go makes stylish water bottles. Each water bottle includes a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects. Based on five years worth of data, the company estimates that 3% of the water bottles sold will be returned because of a defect. When this occurs the company replaces the water bottle. Each water bottle costs $4 to produce. 

In 2013, the company sold 250,000 water bottles. Record the amount of warranty expense that the company should record for 2013.

To record the warranty expense, we need to know three things: units sold, percentage that will be replaced within the warranty period, and the cost of replacement.

First calculate the number of units the company believes will need to be replaced under warranty.

250,000 water bottles sold x 3% defect rate = 750 water bottles potentially defective

Next, calculate the cost of replacing those potentially defective water bottles.

750 water bottles potentially defective x $4 replacement cost = $3000 estimated warranty liability


That is all there is to it. Recording the expense and the liability as an adjusting journal entry.

Recording customer warranty claims

When a customer requests a repair or replacement under warranty, the customer files a claim. The company must record this claim. Every time the company fulfills a claim, a portion of the warranty liability is also fulfilled. In other words, every time a claim is fulfilled, the company must decrease the amount of the liability by the cost of fulfilling the claim.

There are a number of ways that the company can fulfill a claim. It can replace the item with an item from inventory, therefore decreasing inventory. The company could repair the product using parts from inventory and outside labor (which would require cash) or inside labor (wages payable). Always record the replacement or repair at cost, not at the retail value of the item or parts.

Example #2

On February 1, Hydration-on-the-Go received 14 water bottles in the mail that had been returned by customers to be replaced under warranty. Each water bottle costs $4 to produce and sells for $9. Record the entry for fulfillment of the warranty claims.

The problem is asking us to record the warranty claim. When the company fulfills a warranty claim, we need to debit the estimated warranty liability. This is because part of the warranty obligation is being fulfilled. The amount of liability is decreasing.

Now to determine the account to credit. Ask yourself how how the liability is being fulfilled. How is the company fulfilling the liability in this case? The company is replacing the water bottle. Water bottles are the product that the company sells. They are inventory. Therefore, we will reduce inventory by the amount that the bottles cost. When we use inventory to fulfill the warranty liability, the value of inventory falls.

How much should we record as the cost of the water bottles? If we are removing them from inventory, we should remove them at cost. Therefore, use $4 per water bottle.

14 water bottles x $4 per water bottle = $56 cost of inventory

We have all the information we need to record the journal entry.


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In the previous post, we defined and calculated gross pay, payroll taxes, and net pay. In this post, we will discuss how to record the paycheck and the employer taxes.

You might be wondering why this is in the liabilities section of the course. So far we have discussed wage and salaries expense and payroll tax expense. How are liabilities involved?

Once you write the check for $371.28 and you have withheld taxes, those taxes that you have withheld from the check are due to the government. Those taxes represent a liability to the company because the company has an obligation to pay those taxes on behalf of the employee. Also once the employee is paid, the employer has the  obligation to pay the employer portion of the taxes. Because of these obligations, this is why you typically see these topics covered in the liabilities section of your accounting textbook.

Let’s look at what we calculated in the previous post. We calculated the net pay that an employee would receive:



We also calculated the amount of taxes that the employer would need to pay.


Now that we have those figures, we need to record this as journal entries. We are going to record this in two pieces. First, record the paycheck then record the employer taxes.

To record the entry for the paycheck, we need to consider a few things:

  • The wage expense
  • The cash paid to the employee
  • The taxes that will be paid later to the various government agencies

The wage expense is the total cost of labor incurred by the company. Wage expense is typically the gross wages paid to the employee. In this case, $480.

Although the wage expense is $480, how much did the employee actually receive? The net pay is $371.28. That is the amount of cash paid to the employee and the amount that the company’s cash will decrease by.

The difference between the gross pay and the net pay is the taxes that were withheld from the employee’s pay. This amount will be recorded as various liabilities.

Here is the journal entry to record the payment of the paycheck:


Notice the Wage Expense is debited for the gross pay. We have credited a liability account for each of the tax amounts. Sometimes you will see all the taxes lumped together into one account called Payroll Taxes Payable. We have also credited Cash for the amount of the net pay.

The entry to record the employer portion of the taxes is similar to the entry above except no cash is paid at the time the entry is recorded. We must record the liabilities that will be paid and the company expense.


The total amount of company expense is $58.80 because the is the total amount of tax that the company incurred. Use the same payable accounts for Social Security and Medicare. We also added two new payable accounts for the two different unemployment taxes.

Final thoughts

When working on payroll problems, first calculate the amount of the payroll and employer expenses. This will make doing the journal entries so much easier. It might seem like more work but it will save you time and confusion in the long run because everything is laid out for you.


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Payroll is one of the most complicated areas of accounting because of all the rules and regulations surrounding payroll. Not only do we need to calculate taxes, but we also need to subtract things like retirement benefits, health insurance contributions and other employee contributions. This post will cover the basics of payroll and payroll taxes.

What are wages and salaries?

Wages and salaries are the compensation paid to employees for the work they do for a company. Wages are calculated based on an hourly rate and the number of hours an employee works. Salaries are a fixed amount paid to employees no matter how many hours are worked. Salaries are based on an annual or monthly rate. Other items that are considered part of wages and salaries are commission paid to sales people, bonuses paid to employees, holiday pay, and vacation pay. The total compensation paid to employees based on work performed is considered to be the total wage and salary expense for the company. This is also called Gross Payroll.

What taxes are withheld from employee compensation?

Once  gross payroll has been calculated, we can start looking at deductions. Taxes generally make up the largest portion of employee deductions. These taxes include social security and medicare taxes, withholding for federal income taxes and withholding for state income taxes. We will look at each of these taxes individually to insure that you understand each of these taxes and how the tax is calculated.

Social Security and Medicare Tax

The Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935 to provide benefits to retirees, widows, and surviving children. Medicare was later added in 1965 as a health insurance program for retirees over the age of 65. Social Security and Medicare taxes are often referred to FICA tax because of Federal Insurance Contributions Act of 1935 which allowed for the collection of the taxes to pay for these programs.

Social Security and Medicare taxes are paid by employees and matched by their employers.

The current Social Security tax rate is 6.2% and is collected on all wages until an employee earns up to the Social Security wage base limit. For 2014, that amount is $117,000. For 2015, the wage base limit is $118,500. Once an employee makes more than the wage base, no additional tax is collected. The employer is also responsible for matching 6.2% of an employee’s pay up to the wage base limit. The total percentage paid by the employee and the employer is 12.4%

The current Medicare tax rate is 1.45% and is collected on all wages. There is no wage base limit for Medicare. The employer is also responsible for matching the Medicare tax at 1.45%. The total percentage paid by the employee and the employer is 2.9%.

Federal Withholding

Federal Withholding is the amount that an employer withholds from an employee’s pay that goes toward the employee’s federal income tax liability. Each year, when the employee files his or her federal tax return (typically a 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ), the form will compare how much the employee must pay in tax with the amount that the employee had withheld from his or her paychecks. If too much tax was withheld, the employee will receive a refund. If too little tax was withheld, the employee will owe money.

When a company hires an employee, the employee is required to fill out an IRS Form W-4. On this form, the employee indicates his or her filing status and the number of allowances the employee is claiming. The employer then uses the withholding tables from IRS Publication 15 (also called Circular E) to determine how much to withhold from an employee’s paycheck. The tables are based on the frequency of pay (weekly, biweekly, monthly) and if the employee is married or single.

It is the employee’s responsibility to properly fill out the form based on the employee’s circumstances. The employer can only withhold based on the W-4 provided.

State Withholding

Currently, there are seven states that do not have an income tax. They are:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Two additional states do not have an income tax on wages and salaries:

  • New Hampshire
  • Tennessee

If you live on any of the states not listed above, your wages are subject to state withholding for income taxes. The procedure is similar to Federal Withholding. The employee fills out a state form and the employer uses that form to calculate the tax based on state withholding requirements.

Unemployment Taxes

Employers are responsible for paying state and federal unemployment taxes for their employees. This is not a tax that is withheld from an employee’s pay. It is an employer expense.

Unemployment taxes pay for benefits paid to people who have been laid off from their job.

Unemployment tax rates and wage base limitations vary state. Most states charge a higher rate to employers that lay off more workers. Typically, the wage base is very low. The majority of states have a wage base that is less than $15,000, with 19 states having a wage base below $10,000. That means unemployment taxes are no longer charged to an employer once that employer pays an employee more than the wage base. Washington had the highest wage base for 2014 at $41,300.

The federal unemployment tax rate is 6% with an $7,000 wage base. Most employers get a credit of up to 5.4% for taxes paid to their state unemployment fund. That means that most employers pay 0.6% (less than 1%) on the first $7,000 of wages paid to each employee.

Basic paycheck and expense calculations

Our ultimate goal is to calculate the employee’s gross pay and the amount of taxes that must be withheld from the employee, as well as the employer tax expense. Net pay is the amount of the check written to the employee after taxes and other deductions are subtracted from gross pay. This is also called take-home pay. Let’s see what a basic paycheck calculation would look like for a company.

Example #1

Jeff’s Geek-O-Rama has one employee. As of January 14, the first biweekly pay date of the year, the employee had worked 48 hours and is paid at a rate of $10 per hour. According to the employee’s state and federal forms, the company will withhold 10% in federal withholding taxes and 5% in state withholding taxes. The state unemployment rate is 4% on the first $10,000 of wages paid to each employee and the federal unemployment rate is 0.6% on the first $7,000 of wages paid to each employee. 

Calculate the gross pay and net pay for the January 14 paycheck. Also calculate the company’s tax expense for this paycheck. 

There is a lot of information in this short little problem and it can seem really overwhelming. Let’s start with what the question wants us to do.

  1. Calculate the gross pay
  2. Calculate the net pay
  3. Calculate the company’s tax expense

Now we can tackle each of these one at a time. It is really important to learn the terminology so you can calculate the correct figures.

Gross pay is the amount of wages the employee earned. This is based off the number of hours the employee worked and how much the employee is paid each hour. In this case, the employee worked 48 hours over a two-week period. We know this because we are told the employee is paid biweekly (every two weeks). The employee is paid $10 per hour.

48 hours worked x $10 per hour = $480.00 gross pay

Net pay is the amount the employee takes home after all the taxes are deducted. First, determine which taxes should be withheld from the employee.

  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Federal Withholding
  • State Withholding

We need to calculate each of these taxes.

Social Security is 6.2% of the gross pay. Multiply the gross pay by 6.2% or 0.062.

$480.00 x 0.062 = $29.76 Social Security tax

Medicare is 1.45% of the gross pay. Multiply the gross pay by 1.45% or 0.0145.

$480.00 x 0.0145 = $6.96 Medicare tax

According to the problem, federal withholding is 10% of gross pay. Multiply gross pay by 10% or 0.1.

$480.00 x 0.1 = $48.00 federal withholding tax

According to the problem, state withholding is 5% of gross pay. Multiply gross pay by 5% or 0.05.

$480.00 x 0.05 = $24.00 state withholding

All the taxes that will be withheld from the employee’s pay have been calculated. For net pay, subtract all the taxes from the gross pay.


Of the $480.00 the employee earned, the employee will take home $371.28. The rest of the money, $108.72 will be paid to the federal and state governments on the employee’s behalf.

The last portion of the problem asks us to calculate the employer taxes. First, list the taxes that the employer must pay.

  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Federal Unemployment
  • State Unemployment

We need to calculate each of these taxes.

Social Security is 6.2% of the gross pay. Remember that the employee pays this but the employer does as well. Multiply the gross pay by 6.2% or 0.062.

$480.00 x 0.062 = $29.76 Social Security tax

Medicare is 1.45% of the gross pay. This is another tax that is paid by both the employee and the employer. Multiply the gross pay by 1.45% or 0.0145.

$480.00 x 0.0145 = $6.96 Medicare tax

According to the problem, federal unemployment is 0.6% of the first $7,000 of wages paid to each employee. Since this is the first payroll of the year, the employee has only earned $480.00 and is well below the $10,000 threshold. Multiply the gross pay by 0.6% or 0.006. Remember, this is less than 1% so it is 0.006.

$480.00 x 0.006 = $2.88 federal unemployment tax

According to the problem, state unemployment is 4% of the first $10,000 of wages paid to the employee. Since this is the first payroll of the year, the employee has only earned $480.00 and is well below the $10,000 threshold. Multiply the gross pay by 4% or 0.04.

$480.00 x 0.04 = $19.20 state unemployment tax

Add up all the employer taxes to calculate the total employer tax.


This is an expense to the employer on top of the wages paid to the employee. Therefore, the total cost of the employee to the employer is $480.00 in wages plus $58.80 in taxes.

In the next post, we will discuss how to record the journal entries for this payroll transaction.

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What is sales tax?

Sales tax is a tax on the price of a good or service. This tax is a percentage of the price and is added by the final seller.

There are only five states in the United States that do not have a state sales tax. There is little consistency in how states apply sales tax. Some states only collect sales tax on goods and not services. Some states give exemptions for items that are considered necessities, like food and clothing. Some states exempt some services like hair cuts and accounting services. There are a number of accountants who specialize in sales tax regulation because the laws can be so complicated.

Historically, in order for a company to be required to collect sales tax in a state, the company must have nexus in the state. Nexus refers to physical presence in the state. That means the company would need to have buildings or employees in a state in order to have nexus in the state. As the internet and online shopping has grown, states are losing out on billions of dollars in sales tax revenue. According to Bloomberg,  states lose an estimated $23 billion per year in sales taxes from internet sales. This lead a number of states to pass “Amazon Tax Laws”. These laws redefined the definition of nexus to include companies with affiliates in a state. An affiliate is a blogger, website owner, or anyone who posts affiliate links online. When someone clicks on the link and purchases a product from a website, the affiliate earns revenue. The states argued that these affiliates are akin to sales people and therefore those affiliates create nexus in the state. Congress is also working on bills to force large online retailers to collect sales tax in all states. These laws are constantly evolving and accountants must stay on top of current legislation.

How is sales tax collected?

Sales tax is collected by retailers when goods and services are sold to the final user. Sales taxes are not imposed when materials that will be used to manufacture a product are sold to a manufacturer. When the manufacturer sells their products to a retailer, no taxes are imposed. It is only when the product is sold to the final customer that the taxes are charged. If the sale is not made to the final end user, no sales tax is collect. A few states have made exemptions to this rule, like charging contractors sales tax on materials.

There are two ways that companies can add sales tax to their products. Most companies add sales tax to the price of their products. To calculate the amount of sales tax, multiply the sales tax percentage by the total amount of the sale.

Example #1

A customer purchases $150.00 worth of taxable products from Jeff’s Geek-O-Rama on 2/15. The sales tax rate in the state the store resides is 6%. Calculate the amount of tax and the total amount the customer paid.  

First let’s calculate the tax. The sales tax is 6% of the total purchase, which in this case is $150.00.

$150.00 X .06 = $9

That is the total tax on the transaction. This must be added to the purchase price so the total cash collected is $159.00, but only $150 belongs to Jeff. The other $9 belongs to the state and should be remitted to the state when the next sales tax return is filed.

When recording the transaction, record the cash that was received, the revenue the company earned, and the sales tax that is payable to the state.


As the month goes on and more sales transactions occur, the sales tax payable account will grow. Most states require monthly payment for sales tax collected. When February’s sales tax is due in March, we will look at how much sales tax was collected and pay that amount.

Example #2

On March 20, Jeff’s Geek-O-Rama pays the sales tax due for February. The store generated $27,250 in taxable sales in February and has a balance in Sales Tax Payable of $1,635 at the end of the month. Record the journal entry to record the payment of the sales tax for February.

This entry is pretty straight forward. It is like recording any other debt payoff. We are paying down the debt. The normal balance in a liability account is a credit balance so in order to pay off that balance we would need to debit the account. How are we paying with sales tax? We are paying it with cash. Cash will decrease which would be our credit. The amount of the entry is $1,635.


What do we do with sales tax paid on purchases made by the company?

If a business purchases items for the company’s use, like office supplies or equipment, the cost of those items is subject to sales tax. What does a company do with that sales tax?

If you think back to the asset purchase rules, all costs associated with acquiring an asset must be added to the cost of the asset. These costs include sales tax. If a company purchases supplies and pays sales tax, the sales tax is added to the cost of the supplies. If the company purchases a machine and there is sales tax on the purchase, the sales tax is added to the cost of the machine.



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What is a liability?

liability is an obligation that the company has to another party. Typically when we think of liabilities, we think of accounts payable or notes payable, but there are many other liabilities that a company can have to other people or entities.

Whenever a company owes money or services to another party, there is a liability. A liability must be recorded if the company can estimate the amount of the liability and is reasonably sure that the liability is owed.

Liabilities have a normal credit balance. When a liability increases, we credit the account. When a liability is paid or an obligation is fulfilled, either in whole or in part, the account is debited.

What is a current liability?

Current liabilities are liabilities that are due in less than one year or one operating cycle. The most notable liability that most people think of when they think of current liabilities is accounts payable. There are however many other accounts qualify as current liabilities.

Accounts payable is a current liability used for normal day-to-day bills. Some textbooks will argue that accounts payable should only be used for the purchase of inventory and supplies, but in my experience, accounts payable is used for all routine bills that must be paid. This would include supplies, inventory, utility bills, telephone bills, and other bills which the company plans to pay at a later date.

Any other current amount owed must be placed in its own payable account. This includes salaries payable, taxes payable, interest payable and any other obligations a company would have.

Recording and paying accounts payable

When a company purchases something and does not pay for it at the time of purchase, a payable is created.

Example #1

On January 15, KLI, LLC purchases $1,500 worth of supplies on account, terms n/30.

In this example, the company is purchasing supplies but has not paid for them yet. How do we know the company has not paid for them? There are a few key things to look for. First, the statement does not use the word “paid.” “Paid” always indicates that cash is involved. Since cash is not involved, We know we have not paid for the purchase.

Second, we see “on account” in the statement. On account indicates either Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable. When we see on account, we should ask “Are we going to pay cash later or receive cash later?” If we are going to pay cash later because we purchased something, we have Accounts Payable.

If you do not have either “paid” or “on account”, there is one additional give away in the transaction. If you see terms, the purchase was made on account. Payment terms, such as n/30, are only included if the transaction has not been paid for. If the transaction had been paid for, we wouldn’t need to know that the bill must be paid within 30 days.

Here is the journal entry for the transaction:



Example #2

On February 10, KLI, LLC paid for the supplies purchased on January 15.

In this transaction, we are paying for the supplies previously purchased. Be careful when recording a transaction like this. Many people studying accounting get this one wrong the first few times they try it.

The transaction states that the company paid for something. That is one of the keywords we discussed above. When we see “paid” in the transaction, Cash is involved.

What did the company actually pay for? We are told to refer back to the transaction on January 15. In that transaction, we recorded Supplies and Accounts Payable. Are we purchasing more supplies or are we paying off the Accounts Payable? The transaction indicates that we are paying for supplies that were previously purchased, not purchasing more supplies.

Let’s see if that fits into our journal entry. We know that Cash will be a credit. Does it make sense to debit Accounts Payable? Since we are paying off what we owed, we are fulfilling the obligation. We want the balance in Accounts Payable to decrease so we would debit Accounts Payable.


Lots of different liabilities

Over the next few posts, we will be covering a number of new current and long-term liabilities. All of these liabilities follow the same rules as described above. When classifying a liability ask yourself if the company has an obligation to anther party. If the answer is yes, then you have a liability.

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