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The generally accepted accounting equation is

Assets = Liabilities + Equity,

or, put simply, stuff owned = stuff owed. I can see how Prepaid expenses are zero-sum assets initially because the credit is posted to the cash/bank account and the debit is posted to the prepaid account (both current assets). But what happens once the Prepaid asset is amortized to an expense account? Where is the offset in the balance sheet to make the equation true (assuming the invoice has been paid off)? Put another way, what happens in the balance sheet and in relation to the accounting equation when a Prepaid expense is written off to an expense account?

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I think I got it this.

Let's say the prepaid is an annual subscription valued at \$1,200 (or \$100 a month). Paying it all at once will generate -\$1,200 in cash (current asset) and \$1,200 in prepaid (current asset). If the subscription is procured on payment terms, then prepaid (current asset) will be \$1,200 and accounts payable (current liability) will be \$1,200. Once the subscription payment becomes due before the subscription start, accounts payable will become \$0, cash will become -\$1,200 and prepaid will be \$1,200, still satisfying the accounting equation. Once the subscription starts amortizing, the current asset will decrease by \$100 and the offset will occur in equity, specifically retained earnings. So ceteris paribus, at nth amortization period in the balance sheet, we will have -\$1,200 in cash \$1,200 - \$100n in prepaid, and -\$100n in retained earnings. Retained earnings = retained earnings at the starting period (constant) - net income profit or loss - dividend (constant). Since we are expensing \$100 incrementally, the net income profit or loss goes down by that incremental \$100. Once the subscription is fully amortized, we will have assets = -\$1,200 due to cash withdrawal, liabilities = \$0 and equity = -\$1,200 due to net income profit decreasing as the subscription was expensed. This seems to make sense to me.

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  • $\begingroup$ "the current asset will decrease by $100 and the offset will occur in equity, specifically retained earnings." Yes the prepaid asset will decrease and be transformed into expense (which is considered a temporary subaccount of the retained earnings account). 100 is credited to prepaid subscription and debited to Expense (which will show up on the Income Statement). $\endgroup$
    – nbbo2
    Jul 20, 2022 at 14:54

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