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Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC)


Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) refers to costs incurred by an insurance company that are associated with acquiring new insurance contracts. These might include commission fees, underwriting expenses, and costs of issuing policies. Instead of recognizing these costs as an immediate expense, they are deferred and amortized over the expected life of the policy to help match cost and revenue recognition.


The phonetics for “Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC)” would be:Deferred – dih-fur-dAcquisition – ak-wuh-zish-uhnCosts – kawstsDAC – dack

Key Takeaways


Definition and Scope: Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) are costs incurred by an insurance company that are associated with the acquisition of new insurance contracts or the renewal of existing ones. These costs include commissions, underwriting expenses, and costs related to issuing policies.


Amortization: The DAC is gradually expensed over the life of the insurance contract, meaning it’s spread out instead of being recognized all at once in the financial statements of the company. This process is known as amortization. The time period and methodology of DAC amortization can vary depending on the type of insurance product.


Regulation: The accounting treatment of DAC is governed by both international and national accounting standards. It is essential that insurance companies correctly identify, measure and recognize DAC to ensure accurate reporting. Mismanagement of DAC can lead to finanical reporting inaccuracies and potential regulatory issues.


Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) is a critical term in the business or finance industry, particularly in the insurance sector. This is due to the fact that these costs, primarily related to underwriting and policy issuance, represent a significant, upfront investment by the insurance company before a new policy generates any income. Recognizing all these costs immediately could result in a significant loss in the early years of a policy; therefore, companies prefer to defer these costs, spreading them out over the policy’s lifetime to better match revenues with the expenses incurred to generate them. By doing so, this provides a more accurate reflection of an insurer’s profitability and financial health. Without an understanding of DAC, assessments of an insurer’s performance could be greatly skewed.


Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) serves as a critical financial concept in insurance firms, where initial costs of policy acquisition are substantial but revenue recognition often spreads over several years. When an insurance company underwrites a new policy, they bear significant upfront costs – such as underwriting costs, sales and marketing expenses, and issuing policy documents. Instead of immediately charging these costs as expenses, they spread them over the policy life, aligning cost recognition with the associated revenue stream. This method helps recognize the long-term nature of insurance contracts, prevent any drastic impact on short-term profitability, and provide a more realistic reflection of business performance.DAC enables insurers to attain a clearer picture of their financial standing and profitability over time. By smoothing out these large upfront outlays, they can align their financial results more effectively with the gradual earnings from their policies. This reduces financial volatility and can yield a more stable and predictable pattern of reported profits. It’s worth noting that DAC models need careful management due to their significance in financial outlook and projections. Any change in assumptions can affect an insurance firm’s reported profits and balance sheet health, underlining the need for rigorous and prudent DAC management.


1. Insurance Companies: In the insurance sector, especially within life insurance and property and casualty insurance, companies often defer the costs of acquiring new clients. These costs include direct costs of writing new business, such as commissions to agents, underwriting costs, and costs of processing new business. This is a prime example of Deferred Acquisition Costs as these costs are capitalized and then amortized over the period in which the related revenues are recognized.2. Telecommunication Industry: Major telecommunication companies like Verizon and AT&T use DAC extensively. For example, when they procure new customers, there are significant acquisition costs involved such as costs of marketing, promotion, and subsidizing handsets. These companies defer these costs and then gradually amortize them throughout the customer’s contract period recognizing the expenses parallel to the revenue they receive.3. Software Companies: In the software industry, companies often have significant customer acquisition costs in the form of sales and marketing expenses. For example, if a software company is securing a long-term contract with another business, it might incur costs for initial setup, customization and integration of the software. Instead of expensing these costs immediately, they’re deferred and expensed over the lifetime of the contract, aligning the cost more evenly with the period during which revenue is earned.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC)?

Deferred Acquisition Costs (DAC) is a term used mainly in the insurance industry and refers to the practice of deferring the cost of acquiring new business over the duration of the insurance contracts.

Why do companies defer acquisition costs?

Companies defer acquisition costs as a way to smooth out expenses and better align the costs of acquiring a new policyholder with the revenues to be generated from the policyholder over the lifetime of the contract.

How are Deferred Acquisition Costs calculated?

DAC are typically calculated as the sum of the variable costs, such as underwriting, associated with producing new insurance contracts.

Are Deferred Acquisition Costs reflected on the balance sheet?

Yes, DAC are usually reported on the insurance company’s balance sheet as an intangible asset since it provides potential future economic benefits.

How does the treatment of DAC affect an insurance company’s income statement?

Initially, deferring acquisition costs results in higher earnings. However, in subsequent periods, the amortization of these deferred costs lowers the insurer’s net income.

Are there any regulations regarding the deferral of acquisition costs?

Yes, there are strict guidelines and regulations, like the adoption of DAC tax law, which limits the amount of acquisition costs that companies can defer.

What is the impact of DAC on policyholders’ premiums?

The DAC impacts the pricing of insurance products, as insurance companies take into account the costs of policy origination when they set premium rates.

Are Deferred Acquisition Costs the same for all types of insurance policies?

Not necessarily. The amount of deferred acquisition costs can vary depending on the type of policy, the length of the policy term, and the insurance company’s cost structure.

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