Is Insurance a Debit or Credit? A Guide to Recording Insurance Transactions

Insurance is an important expense for most businesses. But when recording insurance transactions in your books, is insurance a debit or credit?

The short answer is that insurance is typically recorded as a debit. But the full accounting treatment of insurance is more nuanced.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:

  • The basics of debits and credits
  • How to record the purchase of insurance
  • How to record insurance expenses each month
  • The treatment of refunds and policy cancellations
  • Real-world examples to illustrate debit and credit entries

Debits and Credits Refresher

Before diving into insurance, let’s recap the basics of debits and credits. This will provide helpful context.

In double-entry accounting, every transaction requires at least two entries – a debit and a credit. These offsetting entries keep the books in balance.

Some common rules of thumb:

  • Debits increase asset and expense accounts
  • Credits increase liability, equity, and revenue accounts
  • Debits decrease liability, equity, and revenue accounts
  • Credits decrease asset and expense accounts

When recording insurance transactions, these debit and credit guidelines tell us:

  • Insurance payments will be debited somewhere, since cash (an asset) is decreasing
  • Insurance expenses will be credited somewhere, since expenses are increasing

With this foundation, let’s look at some insurance accounting examples.

Recording the Initial Insurance Payment

When a business first purchases an insurance policy, the premium payment is recorded as follows:

Debit: Prepaid Insurance  $XXCredit: Cash               $XX

Prepaid insurance is an asset account that represents the amount of insurance coverage that is still unused. So when the premium is paid upfront, this prepaid asset is increased with a debit.

Cash, another asset account, is decreased by the premium payment amount with a credit.

Some examples:

  • Paying $6,000 upfront for a 12-month insurance policy would be:

    Debit: Prepaid Insurance $6,000

    Credit: Cash $6,000

  • Paying $3,600 every 6 months for insurance would be:

    Debit: Prepaid Insurance $3,600

    Credit: Cash $3,600

The initial payment is always debited to prepaid insurance, reflecting the future economic benefit of insurance coverage. Cash is credited to represent the reduction in cash.

Recording Monthly Insurance Expenses

As each month passes, insurance coverage is “used up” and expires. The portion of the prepaid insurance asset that applies to the current month must be expensed.

This monthly insurance cost is recorded as:

Debit: Insurance Expense   $XX Credit: Prepaid Insurance $XX

The insurance expense account is debited to show an increase in monthly expenses.

Prepaid insurance is credited to reduce the leftover unused amount of the asset.

For example:

  • A company paid $6,000 for a 12-month policy. Each month, they would record:

    Debit: Insurance Expense $500

    Credit: Prepaid Insurance $500

This gradually expenses the original prepaid asset over the policy term.

Some signs that prepaid insurance is not being properly expensed:

  • Assets stay high on the balance sheet every month
  • Expenses seem artificially low on the income statement

Refunds of Prepaid Insurance

Sometimes a policy is cancelled mid-term and an unused portion of the premium is refunded. How should this transaction be recorded?

If a policy with an original $6,000 premium is cancelled mid-term and $1,500 is refunded for the unused portion, this is recorded as:

Debit: Cash                $1,500Credit: Prepaid Insurance $1,500  

Cash is debited because the asset account is increasing from the refund.

Prepaid insurance is credited to reduce the asset, reflecting there is now less unused insurance.

The remaining prepaid balance would continue to be expensed monthly.

Direct-Pay Insurance

In some cases, insurance is paid incrementally over the policy term rather than entirely upfront. This is known as direct-pay or pay-as-you-go insurance.

For example, paying $500 each month over the course of a 12-month policy.

In this scenario, there is no prepayment or prepaid asset recorded. The monthly $500 payment is recorded simply as:

Debit: Insurance Expense  $500Credit: Cash                $500

This approach expenses the insurance immediately in the month of payment. The transaction debits insurance expense and credits cash directly.

Accrued Insurance Expenses

Some insurance bills relate to the prior accounting period but are paid in the current period. This requires an adjusting entry to accrue an insurance expense.

For example:

  • In January, a $1,200 insurance bill is received for December coverage
  • The December income statement has already been finalized
  • An adjusting entry is required to show the insurance expense properly in December:

Debit: Insurance Expense $1,200Credit: Accrued Expenses Payable $1,200

This debit increases the December insurance expense. The credit entries a liability to pay the amount owed.

When the $1,200 premium is paid in January, this entry is reversed:

Debit: Accrued Expenses Payable $1,200Credit: Cash $1,200

The liability account is debited to zero out the balance, and cash is credited to record the payment.

Insurance Expenses on the Income Statement

On the income statement, insurance expenses are deducted as part of total expenses to determine net income.

Recording insurance properly results in more accurate financial statements. The income statement presents the true cost of doing business each period.

Real-World Examples of Recording Insurance

Let’s walk through some real-world examples of insurance accounting entries:

Example 1

  • On Jan 1, XYZ Company purchases a 12-month insurance policy for $60,000
  • Premium is paid upfront on Jan 1

The initial payment is recorded as:

Debit: Prepaid Insurance   $60,000           Credit: Cash                  $60,000

At the end of January, the monthly expense is recorded:

Debit: Insurance Expense $5,000  Credit: Prepaid Insurance $5,000

Example 2

  • On July 1, ABC Company begins a 6-month insurance policy
  • Premiums of $3,000 are paid monthly

No prepayment or prepaid is recorded. The July payment is simply:

Debit: Insurance Expense   $3,000Credit: Cash                     $3,000 

Example 3

  • DEF Company has a 12-month, $120,000 policy paid annually
  • On June 1, this policy is cancelled with 6 months remaining
  • The insurance company refunds $60,000 of the unused premium

The refund transaction is recorded as:

Debit: Cash                          $60,000  Credit: Prepaid Insurance    $60,000

Recording insurance transactions properly is key to accurate financial statements. By understanding whether insurance is a debit or credit, businesses can ensure their books are in order.

When to Debit vs Credit Insurance

Here is a recap of when insurance accounts are debited vs credited:

Debit Insurance When:

  • Recording the initial prepayment of insurance premiums
  • Accruing insurance expenses in prior periods
  • Receiving a refund for cancelled policies

Credit Insurance When:

  • Making cash payments for insurance premiums
  • Expensing portions of prepaid insurance assets each month
  • Receiving insurance refunds to reduce prepaid assets

Following these debit and credit guidelines helps ensure all insurance transactions are recorded correctly.

Accounting Software Makes It Easy

While you can record insurance entries manually, accounting software automates the process.

Most systems easily handle:

  • Setting up prepaid insurance assets
  • Scheduling recurring monthly expenses
  • Adjusting prepaid balances as needed

This saves significant time and ensures accuracy. Cloud accounting systems like QuickBooks Online and Xero seamlessly record insurance expenses across periods.

The Importance of Correct Insurance Accounting

Properly recording insurance transactions has several key benefits:

  • Accurate financial statements – Income statements reflect true insurance costs each period. Balance sheets correctly show prepaid insurance assets.

  • Smooth audits – Consistently accounting for insurance shows financial diligence if the books are audited or reviewed.

  • Optimized deductions – For tax purposes, recording insurance in the proper period maximizes tax deductions each year.

  • Better cash flow management – With expense timing matched to insurance coverage periods, cash flow estimates improve.

Taking the time to record insurance correctly provides major financial clarity and control. Understanding whether insurance is a debit or credit transaction is the key first step.

Journal Entry for Prepaid Insurance


Is insurance payable a credit or debit?

In accounting, insurance expense is typically recorded on the income statement as a debit entry. This debit entry will show a reduction in the company’s net income or profit. A business spends $12,000 in advance for liability insurance coverage for the next twelve months.

What type of account is insurance?

Life insurance premium is classified as a personal account, since the insurance premium paid represents the amount paid for an individual.

Is a prepaid insurance debit or credit?

Prepaid insurance, like any other asset, has a debit balance and is recorded as such in the books of accounts. The asset value falls as the advantages of pre-paid insurance are realized over time, and the sum is recorded as a cost in the company’s income statement.

What is debit and credit in insurance?

When purchasing Worker’s Compensation Insurance there are two factors that can change your rate, credits and debits. There are credits, which help lower the price you pay, and then there are debits, which bring up the price you pay.

Leave a Comment