Accounting for insurance proceeds

When a business suffers a loss that is covered by an insurance policy, it recognizes a gain in the amount of the insurance proceeds received. The most reasonable approach to recording these proceeds is to wait until they have been received by the company. By doing so, there is no risk of recording a gain related to a payment that is never received.

An alternative is to record the gain as soon as the payment is probable and the amount of the payment can be determined; however, this constitutes a form of accrued revenue, and so is discouraged unless there is a high degree of certainty regarding the payment. If the gain is recorded prior to cash receipt, the offsetting debit to the gain is a receivable for expected insurance recoveries.

A gain from insurance proceeds should be recorded in a separate account if the amount is material, thereby clearly labeling the gain as being non-operational in nature. For example, the title of such an account could be "Gain from Insurance Claims."

Though a gain is being recorded, the likely total outcome of an insurance claim is a net loss, since the amount of such a claim is offset against the actual loss incurred, net of an insurance deductible.

It may be necessary to disclose the nature of events resulting in insurance proceeds, the amount of the proceeds, and the income statement line item in which the resulting gain is recorded.