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Unearned Discount


An unearned discount, in financial terms, refers to the portion of a loan’s principal amount that a lender has not yet earned and is not due because the loan is still ongoing. It can also be interpreted as the interest that has been collected upfront by the lender prior to the loan’s maturity. This is considered to be a liability for the lending company until the loan period ends or the money is fully earned.


The phonetics of the keyword “Unearned Discount” is:- Unearned: ʌnˈɜrnɪd- Discount: ˈdɪsˌkaʊnt

Key Takeaways

  1. Unearned Discount refers to the interest portion of the loan payment that is yet to be earned by the lender. These are typically associated with short and long term liabilities that are due within one year and hence, are taken into account as a current liability in the Balance Sheet.
  2. This concept is often seen in businesses that offer bonds, loans, or other forms of debt financing where the received payments are spread across several accounting periods. It reduces the financial liability of the borrower till the amount is completely paid off.
  3. The unearned discount amount decreases progressively over time as it gets earned by the lender. This progression follows an amortization schedule in which the discount is gradually earned over the period of the loan or the bond’s life. This shift also represents an income for the lender’s financial reporting.


Unearned discount is a crucial concept in finance and business because it represents the portion of a loan’s principal sum that hasn’t yet been earned by the lender. Essentially, it’s the difference between the loan’s total principal amount and the present value of its future repayments. This concept affects an organization’s reporting and financial analysis as it’s recognized as a liability, decreasing the net loan assets on a company’s balance sheet. The proper management and calculation of this discount allows a company to accurately report its financial standing and aids in making strategic business decisions.


The term ‘Unearned Discount’ arises primarily within the context of long-term loans or bonds, where the lending institution or bond issuer extends credit to the borrower for a period spanning more than one fiscal year. The purpose of an unearned discount principally serves as a form of interest for the lending institution or bond issuer. It is essentially a portion of the total interest yield on the loan or bond that has yet to be earned.More explicitly, an unearned discount is the calculated interest that has not yet been recognized into the lender’s or bond issuer’s income because the loan term has not completed or because the bond has not reached its maturity date. As the loan or bond lifecycle progresses, the unearned discount diminishes, transferring gradually to the lender’s income statement as earned interest income. Essentially, its purpose is to ensure appropriate and periodic recognition of interest income for the lending entity, thereby aligning it with the generally accepted accounting and reporting standards.


Unearned discount refers to a situation in finance/business where a discount is given before it’s realized, due or earned. This term is often used in accounting or retail businesses where products or services are often bought or sold in advance. Here are three real-world examples:1. Subscription-based Service: Companies like Netflix or Amazon Prime provide services on a subscription basis. If a subscriber pays for a year’s subscription in advance and receives a discount for doing so, that would be an unearned discount from the perspective of these companies. They record this as a liability on their balance sheet until the services are rendered, at which point it’s considered earned.2. Retail Discounts: A customer might prepay for a large purchase order with a retail store and receive a discount for paying early. The retailer recognizes the discount as unearned until the products are delivered or the customer has used them.3. Wholesale Club Memberships: Consider bulk warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. These stores offer lower prices (discount) to their members. When a customer purchases a membership, they’re essentially prepaying for the discount they’ll receive throughout the year. When a customer makes a purchase, part of their discount becomes ‘earned’. The remainder is still recorded as ‘unearned’ until fully used or the membership expires.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Unearned Discount?

An Unearned Discount is a business term that refers to the portion of a loan’s principal balance the borrower hasn’t paid yet but has already had the interest reduced. Essentially, it’s the interest that has been deducted in advance from a loan.

Is an Unearned Discount considered a liability or an asset?

An Unearned Discount is considered a liability until the principal is paid off. As the loan is repaid, this discount becomes earned and reduces the liability.

How does an Unearned Discount affect a business’s financial reporting?

Unearned Discounts affect a business’s balance sheet by showing as a liability. Over time, as the loan is repaid, the discount is ‘earned’ , reducing the liability and increasing net income on the income statement.

Can an Unearned Discount be beneficial for a business?

Yes, Unearned Discounts allow businesses to receive a loan at a lower net cost, as the interest is deducted upfront. However, they also represent a liability which must be repaid over time.

Where is an Unearned Discount recorded in business financial records?

Unearned Discounts are recorded in the balance sheet as a contra liability account, reducing the gross amount of liabilities presented.

How is an Unearned Discount calculated?

The Unearned Discount is calculated as the difference between the total repayments a borrower must make on a loan and the amount they initially borrowed.

Could the Unearned Discount amount change over time?

Yes, as the borrower starts to repay the loan, the unearned discount amount decreases. This is because as payments are made, the interest portion originally deducted becomes earned by the lender.

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