Construction Accounting Best Practices and Industry Insights

how to keep construction project accounting

We can help you take the right approach to managing your successful construction business and ensure you’re generating enough revenue to cover all costs while still turning a profit. Automating your invoicing and billing procedures will help cut down on time spent chasing down payments, provide a more consistent process for getting paid, and improve cash flow. You recognize revenue when cash is in hand and record expenses as you spend it. Still, there’s some limitations and risk when accounting with cash, especially when it comes to tax filing and IRS requirements. When job costing is done correctly, it produces actionable data that offer project managers and supervisors with a “scorecard” to review how their crews are performing. It also helps them potentially make adjustments, help protect narrow profit margins, and target the right projects.

how to keep construction project accounting

Construction contracts are normally paid out on a schedule, as the project progresses, with a portion of it held back until completion. Based on the contract, schedule accounts payable as needed so that no accounts go overdue. Construction jobs also run longer-term than many other businesses; some contracts can span multiple years. The company is still responsible for its accounts payable on whatever terms have been set , even if the job itself won’t be complete for another two years.

Construction Accounting 101

Large projects have hundreds of POs from multiple different suppliers. Clear and detailed purchase orders from contractors and subcontractors can function like an audit if anything goes wrong. For example, if an order is only partially fulfilled or contains an item that does not meet specifications, a review of the purchase order can illuminate where the mistake was made. It’s crucial to use a single method of percentage complete calculations throughout the project.

In reality, even the best accounting package for construction industry is not a panacea. Only a combination of the right solution, a well-executed implementation and adoption process will fix their problems. When contractors have inadequate systems in place, they typically resort to creating a range of spreadsheets to track job costs and other information not handled by the accounting system.

Construction Accounting: An Introductory Guide

This recognizes expenses when they are incurred and revenue when it’s earned even if it hasn’t physically come in yet. Projectmates is a management software solution focused on capital construction operations. It helps save time on projects through the automation of resource-consuming processes. It brings communication to the forefront with modules that promote team collaboration.

Works well for simple needs, but it lacks the sophistication to handle their growing and advanced project-based processes, transactions, and reporting. While purchase orders are not the same as an invoice, you can also consolidate PO information for a more streamlined ability to track payments and expenses. Material costs are the total raw project materials, such as lumber, steel, and concrete, plus indirect, but related costs such as transportation to the site.

Accounting Basics for Contractors and Construction Businesses

The list includes the names and brief descriptions of each account, as well as an account number that is used to ease entry into accounting software and financial statement organization. GAAP is based on 10 principles that inform the procedures used to record financial transactions, and those principles help ensure that financial reports are accurate and truthful. Read on to discover the ins and outs of construction accounting, its principles, and useful tools for accounting in a construction business of any size. Include labor, materials and other resources needed to complete a job (and don’t forget to add a margin for error and unforeseen project changes).

How do you keep track of construction expenses?

  1. Set a Budget.
  2. Assign Someone to Handle Cost Monitoring.
  3. Gather Expense Information.
  4. Centralize the Gathered Information.
  5. Analyze Tracked Expenses.
  6. Conclusion.

Labor costs are less predictable, mostly due to unexpected events or interruptions (weather, illness, etc.) that can have a crew falling behind. Since most construction contracts want the jobs completed as soon as possible, labor can also include overtime pay, meaning crew hours must be tracked carefully. This isn’t just for audits; errors happen, typos happen and things can get lost. Paper invoices and receipts can be filed or scanned; online paperwork can be screenshotted and saved. Use calendars to track the billing and invoicing cycles so that neither are overlooked. This can be automated with most modern accounting software suites, but even a paper calendar will help.


Once the contractor has determined the percentage of completion for a project, the percent is multiplied by the total expected revenue. The answer is the amount of income that can be recognized on the project to date. This income is recognized on the income statement through the work in progress report. To calculate the percentage of completion for a project, there are three indicators contractors can use.

  • It essentially ensures that your service price covers all overhead expenses and helps ensure you make a profit on all of your construction projects.
  • Thus, a typical chart of accounts for a contractor will look different from a manufacturer or high-volume retail or hospitality business.
  • Usually, project costs and schedules are recorded and reported by separate application programs.
  • If they’re not handled efficiently, they can cut into project profits.
  • After applying a scheduling algorithm, a new project schedule can be obtained.
  • Current ratios below 1 will likely need debt or equity financing to pay their liabilities.
  • With this method, construction contractors can gain real-time understanding of a project’s profitability because of insight into periodic costs and revenue.

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