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Restricted Cash


Restricted cash refers to money that is held for a specific purpose and cannot be used for general operations of a business. It often refers to money kept separate from other funds to comply with legal or contractual conditions, or to provide financial reserves for specific future expenses. In a company’s balance sheet, it is reported separately from cash and cash equivalents.


The phonetics of the keyword “Restricted Cash” is: rɪˈstrɪktɪd kæʃ.

Key Takeaways

Sure, here are three main takeaways about Restricted Cash:

  1. Definition: Restricted cash refers to money that is held for a specific purpose and cannot be used in the normal operations of a business. This could be due to legal requirements, contractual obligations or internal policy stipulations. The funds are typically kept in a separate bank account from the general operating account.
  2. Financial Reporting: For accounting purposes, restricted cash is reported on a company’s balance sheet under current assets if it’s expected to be used within one year. If it will not be used within a year, it is classified as a non-current asset. These distinctions are important for understanding a company’s liquidity and financial health;
  3. Examples: Common uses of restricted cash include setting aside funds for future large purchases, maintaining reserves for potential liabilities, or maintaining a specific amount of cash for creditor agreements or debt covenants. These examples illustrate the important role of restricted cash in risk management and strategic planning for a company.


Restricted cash is important in business and finance because it refers to money reserved for a particular purpose, ensuring that funds are available for anticipated expenses or obligations. This could include funds reserved for debt repayment, future investments, dividends, or emergencies. Having restricted cash on a company’s balance sheet not only demonstrates financial prudence and stability but also compliance with regulatory requirements in certain industries. Although it limits the liquidity of a company’s assets, it creates confidence among investors and creditors regarding the company’s financial management and its ability to meet its financial commitments.


Restricted cash is designated by companies for specific purposes, indicating a commitment to future transactions or obligations. The primary purpose is to ensure the availability of funds for certain business activities that might be agreed with a third party or mandated by regulatory bodies. It is therefore not freely accessible for general business operations since it is ‘set aside’ or ‘restricted’. The use of restricted cash may cover various business needs, such as long-term projects, debt servicing, or asset acquisition, and it plays a crucial role in maintaining liquidity for these specific requirements.Moreover, restricted cash is also utilized as a means to enhance the company’s credibility with stakeholders, specifically investors and lenders. Providing assurance that the company has sufficient funds allocated to meet planned activities or obligations can improve stakeholder confidence in the company’s financial stability. Therefore, an essential purpose of restricted cash is not just financial planning but also financial communication, as it displays a company’s ability and commitment to execute planned operations or meet financial obligations.


1. Security Deposits: Many businesses, especially those in the real estate industry, require tenants to pay a security deposit before moving into a rental property. This cash is often restricted as it cannot be used for regular company operations; it must be returned to the tenants when they move out, providing they meet the terms of their lease.2. Escrow Accounts: Escrow accounts are another excellent example of restricted cash in business. When a company is involved in a large transaction such as buying another company or real estate, it may place the money in an escrow account. This money is “restricted,” meaning it cannot be used for any other purpose until the transaction is finalized.3. Compensation Funds: In some circumstances, a business may have to set aside a certain amount of money to cover potential liabilities or compensation claims. For example, an oil company might have to allocate a certain amount of its assets as restricted cash to pay for potential environmental clean-up costs. This cash can’t be used for any other purpose, hence it’s considered restricted.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is restricted cash?

Restricted cash refers to the cash reserves that are not freely accessible for all general business operations but instead are earmarked or set aside for specific purposes or future obligations such as pending investments, projects, or commitments.

How is restricted cash reported on financial statements?

Restricted cash is reported on a company’s balance sheet under the line item, ‘current assets.’ It can also be reported separately under non-current assets if the restrictions apply to use beyond the next year.

What can cause cash to be restricted?

Several reasons can cause cash to be restricted. These include legal requirements, contractual agreements, customer deposits, bank account stipulations, insurance claims, or future investments.

Is restricted cash considered a liquid asset?

Restricted cash can be considered a liquid asset as it is cash, however, its liquidity is limited because it is not readily available for immediate use and only available for specific purposes.

What’s the difference between cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash?

Cash and cash equivalents are liquid assets that are readily available for use in business operations. They can be used immediately to pay obligations. Restricted cash, on the other hand, cannot be used for immediate obligations as it is set aside for specific requirements or tasks.

How does restricted cash affect a company’s working capital?

Restricted cash affects a company’s working capital by reducing the amount of cash available to pay for immediate operational expenses or to invest in short-term projects.

What are common examples of restricted cash?

Common examples of restricted cash include funds set aside for debt service (principal and interest payments), payroll funds, customer deposits, and funds put aside for future capital expansion.

How is the use of restricted cash regulated?

The use of restricted cash is regulated based on the terms and conditions set by the entity requiring the cash to be restricted. It could be a legal mandate or a contractual requirement.

Are there any financial reporting standards for restricted cash?

Yes, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States issued an Accounting Standards Update (ASU) to address the classification and presentation of restricted cash in the statement of cash flows.

: Can restricted cash become unrestricted?

Yes, restricted cash can become unrestricted once the specific purpose or obligation it was set aside for has been fulfilled.

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