Income Statement Classification of Royalty Expense

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A company's expenses in relation to income represent the company's overall financial position.
A company's expenses in relation to income represent the company's overall financial position. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Businesses create income statements for each accounting cycle, typically on a yearly basis. Each income and expense account must be reported on the income statement so investors and managers can evaluate the financial health of a company. Since royalties are typically paid in proportion to sales, they can be a large expense for any company.

What Are Royalties?

Royalties are payments made to individuals who have created and sold a product or service with the help of a company. Musicians, actors and writers are some of the individuals who may receive royalty payments. Royalties are a form of compensation, either for an employee who is paid a salary or for independent contractors who receive a Form 1099 at the end of the calendar year.

How Are They Classified?

Since royalties fall under the overall heading of "Compensation" they can be written off as an expense for each tax period. Royalty payment rates are outlined in a contract between the company and the individual being paid, and are therefore determined based on sales figures for the applicable product. Necessary expenses, including any form of compensation, decrease a company's net income. Royalty payments are classified as current expenses on the income statement.

Recording Royalties

Whenever an individual is paid, the accounting department makes a journal entry to the general ledger under each affected account. Each time a royalty payment is sent, the accounting department debits the "Royalties Expense" account and applies a credit to the cash account. The "Royalties Expense" account balance increases, increasing that period's royalties expense, and the cash account balance decreases due to the payment of funds. During the end-of-year closing process, the "Royalties Expense" account is closed and reduced to zero, and the balance is added to the "Expenses" section of the income statement.

Reporting Royalties

When a company reports royalty expense for a financial period, the result is a decrease in net income and thus a decrease in income tax liability. The tax liability gets transferred to the individual who earned the payment and received the Form 1099. The individual is then responsible for reporting the correct amount of royalty payments received for the year, as well as all personal business expenses related to the royalty income.

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