Completed Contract vs Percentage of Completion Method

The primary difference between the completed contract method (CCM) and the percentage of completion method (PCM) is the timing of income recognition

Income is considered recognized when it is included in your tax return or reported on your income statement.
. With PCM, income is recognized in phases as the work is completed while, with CCM, income is recognized upon completion of the contract.

Key takeaways

  • Total income at the end of the contract is the same under either CCM or PCM.
  • The IRS requires the use of the PCM unless the small contractor or home construction contract exception applies.
  • The PCM is heavily reliant on estimates.
  • If eligibility for the CCM is satisfied, two key benefits are tax deferral and improved cash flow over the contract’s life.

Quick Comparison of Completed Contract vs Percentage of Completion Method

While both methods have advantages and disadvantages, the CCM is more advantageous if annual cash flow is a concern. The PCM may be preferable when the company’s books are expected to be reviewed regularly by external parties over the contract’s life. However, in general, most users of the PCM are doing so as a result of this method being the mandatory default.

Pros & Cons of Percentage of Completion and Completed Contract Methods

Who Should Use Percentage of Completion vs Completed Contract?

The IRS generally requires that companies with long-term contracts use the PCM—unless one of the exceptions below applies. Most companies will want to use the CCM if they qualify under one of these exceptions.

For book reporting, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) require the use of the PCM unless you’re unable to adequately estimate costs, in which case GAAP allows the CCM. Most small businesses aren’t required to follow GAAP, but if you’re unsure it applies to you, learn what GAAP is in accounting.

Example of Accounting Under Each Method

ABC Co. enters into a two-year contract with DEF Township to build a bridge. The contract states that ABC Co. will receive $25 million for this project. Estimated costs under the PCM will be $18 million, for an estimated profit of $7 million.

The fact summary is as follows:

  • Total gross revenue: $25 million
  • Total estimated costs: $18 million
  • Estimated profit: $7 million
  • Year one estimated costs: $11 million
  • Year two estimated costs: $7 million

Under the PCM, ABC Co. would allocate costs and recognize income, as shown below. The revenue recognized under the PCM is derived using the cost-to-cost calculation.

Using the cost-to-cost method, the following calculation would be performed:

  • Percentage of completion progress %: (11 million ÷ 18 million) = 61%
  • Revenue recognized: 0.61 ×x 25 million = 15,250,000
  • Costs recognized = Actual costs for the year
Details for this method, along with a separate example showing related journal entries, can be found in our guide on what the PCM is. Also, you can learn the exact calculations and journal entries for the CCM in our article on what the CCM is.

Under the CCM, no revenue or expense is recognized in year one—and the full contracted amount of expense and revenue is recognized in year two.

Using the cost-to-cost method, the following calculation would be performed for year two:

  • Percentage of completion progress %: (7 million ÷ 18 million) = 39%
  • Revenue recognized: 0.39 × 25 million = 15,277,500
  • Costs recognized = Actual costs for the year

Total revenue and costs recognized over the life of the contract were the same under either method.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The completed contract method is generally preferred over the percentage of completion. Taxpayers may be eligible to use CCM when the home construction contract or small contractor exceptions apply.

The CCM requires fewer entries and does not involve the income and expense estimates that the PCM requires, making it the easier method to record.

In contrast with the PCM, incremental contract activity is not recorded in the income statement with CCM. Instead, your costs are recorded as “work in progress” (an inventory account), and your revenue is recorded to progress billing. Both accounts are on the balance sheet and will be transferred to the income statement at the end of the contract.

Bottom Line

The key differences between completed contract vs percentage of completion method revolve around timing and use of estimates. Either method could be advantageous for a company, depending on the intentions of the organization at the time of the contract. Both are permissible methods of accounting for long-term contracts for taxes in the United States. While the PCM generally is required, the CCM can be used if an exception applies.

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