The purpose of this policy is to define revenue recognition for the auxiliaries and service centers, and to provide guidelines for recognizing such revenue in accordance with generally-accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Auxiliaries are self-funded entities that support the university's teaching and research mission. Revenue is generated from the services provided to faculty, students, staff and the Stanford community.

Service centers are organizational units of the university that provide a specific service, group of services, or products to users principally within the university. Their source of revenue is direct charges to users for their services and/or products based on a nondiscriminatory rate. Service center revenue must be no more and no less than the estimated aggregate cost of the service or product over a fiscal year (an over- or under- recovery that is within 5% of total expenses is allowed for nonacademic service centers, and within 15% for academic service centers).

  • Revenue recognition – Revenue is recognized based on accrual accounting in accordance with GAAP. Revenue is recognized when earned, and expenses are recognized when incurred. Revenue is considered earned when the university has substantially met its obligation to be entitled to the benefits represented by the revenue. Revenue is recorded when earned, regardless of the timing of cash receipts. Deposits (whether refundable or non-refundable), early payments and progress payments are not recognized as revenue until the revenue producing event has occurred.
  • Deferred revenue – Deferred revenue results when cash is received in advance of revenue being earned, and is recorded as a liability until it is earned. Once earned, the liability is reduced and revenue is recorded in the general ledger. When recording cash receipts, it is important to determine whether the cash represents payments for recognized revenue or deferred revenue.
  • Accruals and cut off – Revenue is recognized in the period in which it was earned regardless of the timing of billing. At the end of each month, revenue that has been earned but not billed or received is accrued and recorded as revenue in that month. An asset (accounts receivable) is recorded on the balance sheet for the revenue that was earned but for which payment is not yet received.
  • External, intercompany, interdepartmental and intradepartmental revenue – Revenue is recorded based on the revenue source. Revenue earned from external parties (also known as third parties), is recorded as external revenue. External parties are persons or entities over whom Stanford has no fiduciary control. This category includes commercial enterprises, other universities, and also Stanford faculty, staff or students if revenue is for personal goods or services.

    Revenue earned from separate legal entities that are owned by Stanford is recorded as intercompany revenue, refer to Policy: Recording Transactions between Stanford University and Hospitals. Examples of intercompany entities are the hospital entities and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Revenue earned between separate departments of the university is recorded as interdepartmental revenue. Revenue earned within a single department of the university is recorded as intradepartmental revenue.

Revenue recognition, invoice processing and cash receipts may or may not occur at the same time. Revenue is recognized when earned, while invoicing and cash receipt may occur independently of the earning process. For example, cash may be received prior to the service center or auxiliary's performance of a service and/or incurring of any expense. When cash is received in advance, cash is recorded and a deferred revenue liability is recorded. Revenue is not recognized until the performance of the service or sale is complete. Conversely, if a service was completed, revenue is recorded whether or not billing has occurred or payment was received.

Because of the unique nature of each auxiliary and service center, it is not practical in this document to provide the detailed guidelines for each department implementing this policy. However, each department should create a written set of desk procedures that provides a detailed guideline for properly recognizing and recording revenue in accordance with this policy.


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