Accounting for Gift Cards: Prepare for the Holiday Season

Imagine the customer in the above example never returns to your client’s shop, and the remaining $20 gift card balance remains forever. This happens a lot, and it’s referred to as breakage or forfeiture . Ideally,

Imagine the customer in the above example never returns to your client’s shop, and the remaining $20 gift card balance remains forever. This happens a lot, and it’s referred to as breakage or forfeiture . Ideally, it’s a good idea for you to estimate your client’s breakage or forfeiture as you account for the gift cards.

  • The cards are sold for cash and, in effect, the customer is prepaying for the goods.
  • The updated accounting guidance for implementation costs is another business benefit that makes the use of CCAs more attractive to businesses.
  • When you sell a gift card, there has not yet been equal consideration until it’s redeemed for goods so you still owe the customer up to that point.
  • They need to record liabilty which is the obligation to fulfill the customer’s reuirement when they redeem the gift cards.
  • For those gift cards where redemption appears to be unlikely, income is recognized as breakage income.

You may be able to order physical cards or offer digital ones through your e-commerce platform or point-of-sale system. Physical cards typically cost less than $2 per card, and digital cards are often free. In an October survey from the National Retail Federation, 55% of respondents said they hope to get a gift card as a present this year.

Accounting for restaurant gift cards and certificates can get complicated quickly. There are many moving parts in gift card accounting and our team has experience handling the different types of transactions that can occur. Additionally, just like with escheatment rules, a company cannot generate breakage revenue from promotional gift card sales and these cards should be excluded from the breakage calculation. Gift card purchases are recorded as deferred revenue and subsequently recognized as revenue as the gift card is redeemed in the future.

Staying Compliant with Gift Card Laws

All businesses issuing cards or certificates should maintain a matching bank account asset. Rather, the cash goes to an escrow account, separate from the bank account, that can be drawn upon after the card or certificate is redeemed. Gift cards are gift certificates that business usually sells to customers for cash. The customer will be able to use the gift card to redeem goods or services with the company over a certain period of time.

  • These are just a few of the HR functions accounting firms must provide to stay competitive in the talent game.
  • The company set the expired to ensure that the customer will redeem the card sooner and they do not have to wait for a long period of time.
  • Remember, this is a simplified example and actual accounting practices can get more complicated.
  • Gift cards are also ideal for donating to charities that may, in turn, use them as door prizes or sell them for fundraisers.
  • Historical estimates of breakage by consumer research groups estimate that between 10-19% of gift cards are never redeemed.

Going forward the company can estimate the amount of gift cards likely to be unredeemed as new cards are sold. For restaurants, one of the standard methods to assess breakage is to perform a historical look-back and calculate the historical forfeiture rate on gift card sales. The historical forfeiture rate is calculated by taking data for the specific gift card type since inception and averaging the redemption rate over the life of the gift card program. Since gift card and certificate sales are not revenue, they are recorded as a liability on the balance sheet.


The holiday season is quickly approaching, and gift card promotions remain top of mind for management. As promised in Part I of our gift card accounting series, we are pleased to share Part II of the seasonal reminder for gift card accounting as you finalize promotions. Usually, a company can use historical redemptions over the last five to ten years to come up with pretty accurate breakage rate. Gift cards are a popular gift idea because they allow the recipient to choose their own gift, and by extension, you don’t have to figure out what the other person likes.

Your clients may want to give their employees gift cards for this very reason. But the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regulates bonuses and giving employees gift cards as a gift, and your clients need to understand the taxation and reporting rules. On top of that, there are specific provincial and territorial rules your clients may need to follow.

What is Gift Card Accounting?

The company set the expired to ensure that the customer will redeem the card sooner and they do not have to wait for a long period of time. However, some gift cards are not redeemed on time due to various reasons. The company has to write them off and record revenue after the gift card expires. When the customers come back and redeem the gift card, the company has to provide the goods or services based on the value on the card. The company has to record revenue and reveres the gift card liability. There is also the risk of errors in managing and auditing the gift card program that result in discrepancies over time.

Estimating breakage

The journal entry is debiting gift card liability $ 100,000 and credit gift card revenue $ 100,000. With an efficient accounting software in place, you can gain insight into the revenue and liabilities created through Shopify gift card purchases. Automate the accounting workflow as much as possible by integrating your accounting software with Shopify to save time and decrease mistakes. With an integration, you gift card liability and revenue accounts will automatically be created and updated daily to make certain all transactions are logged accurately. To successfully implement a Shopify gift certificate product, having a solid understanding of tax regulations are crucial. Rules and regulations around taxing gift cards differ based on location.

Tax is only charged when the gift card is used to purchase goods and/or services. However, in some regions, such as in the UK, tax is actually recorded at the initial issuing of a gift card. Learn how to sell and redeem gift cards or certificates in QuickBooks Online. 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.

Journal Entry for Gift Cards

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! However, before running any promotion, companies should ensure they are ready to account for gift card sales/redemptions correctly. The journal entry is debiting gift card liability and credit revenue. During the month, some customers have used a gift card to purchase goods and service. The company has to reverse the gift card liability and sale revenue.

This is especially true when you streamline your accounting through integration to assist in maintenance of the gift card product on your Shopify storefront. With these strategies in place, you’ll be able to sell gift cards in a manner that is productive and compliant. Connecting Shopify to your accounting software syncs data in a matter of minutes, allowing you to have a comprehensive look at your business finances with up-to-date data all in one place. The integration will also automatically create a sub-account called ‘Shopify Gift Card’ so you can manage your gift card products and purchases with ease. There are also the benefits of payment reconciliation so you can stay on top of not only general transactions but also gift card transactions. In 2006, Best Buy reported that 24 months is a reasonable point at which the company can assume a gift card of that age will not be redeemed.

As a restaurant matures it is possible to see an increase in its gift card redemption rates thus a change in estimate is likely going to need to be made. If you are a new restaurant and do not have historical redemption rates, a 5-10% breakage rate will likely be in the ballpark and can be adjusted cost recovery methods as redemption rates become available. The change in breakage rate is a change in accounting estimate, thus will be recorded on a prospective basis. When your clients sell gift cards, they have the money in hand, and presumably, that means you should just record the sale as usual, right?

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