What is Arrears?: Full Guide

Dave Jangid | Debitam By Dave Jangid |
What is Arrears

What does it mean to pay in Arrears?

Paying in arrears is a common financial term that refers to the practice of paying for goods or services after they have been provided. This means that instead of paying upfront, payment is made at a later date.

For example, if you hire a contractor to renovate your kitchen and agree on a payment schedule of 50% upfront and 50% in arrears, you will pay 50% of the total cost before any work begins and the remaining 50% after the project is completed.

Why do companies use Arrears?

There are a few reasons why companies may choose to use arrears as their preferred payment method:

  • Cash flow management: Paying in arrears can help companies manage their cash flow by delaying payment until they have generated revenue from the goods or services provided. This allows them to use their available funds for other expenses in the meantime.
  • Incentivize performance: By using arrears, companies can motivate their contractors or service providers to complete their work efficiently and effectively in order to receive payment. This can help ensure timely and satisfactory completion of projects.
  • Flexibility Paying in arrears allows companies to have more flexibility in their budget planning as they do not have to allocate a large sum of money upfront for payments.

Types of Arrears

There are two main types of arrears:

  • Recurring arrears: These are regular payments that are made after the goods or services have been provided. Examples include rent payments, recurring service fees, or subscription fees.
  • Non-recurring arrears: These are one-time payments made after the completion of a project or delivery of goods. They usually involve larger sums of money and can be seen in contracts for construction projects, freelance work, etc.

Examples of Arrears

Here are some common examples of arrears:

  • Rent payments: Tenants often pay their rent in arrears, usually on a monthly basis. This means they pay for the previous month after it has already passed.
  • Employee Payments: Some companies may choose to pay their employees in arrears, meaning that they receive their salary at the end of the pay period rather than at the beginning.
  • Subscription: Many subscription-based services, such as streaming platforms or magazine subscriptions, are paid in arrears, like Netflix.
  • Bills: Utility bills are also default paid in arrears.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Arrears


  • Cash flow management: As mentioned before, paying in arrears can help companies better manage their cash flow.
  • Flexibility: Arrears allow for more flexibility in budget planning as payments are not required upfront.
  • Incentivize performance: By tying payment to the completion of work, arrears can motivate contractors or service providers to perform at their best.


  • Delayed payment: For vendors or contractors, waiting for payment in arrears can cause cash flow issues and delays in receiving funds.
  • Risk of non-payment: If a company is unable to pay in arrears, this can result in debts and financial difficulties for the vendor or contractor.
  • Difficulty with budgeting: For individuals or businesses on the receiving end of arrears payments, it may be difficult to plan for when they will receive payment, leading to potential budgeting challenges.

How does Arrears Work in Dividends?

In the context of investments, arrears can also refer to dividend payments. Dividends are a portion of a company's profits that are distributed to its shareholders on a regular basis. When a company declares dividends, they may choose to pay them in arrears.

This means that instead of paying the dividends immediately after declaring them, the company will accumulate the sum of all dividends owed to shareholders and make a lump sum payment at a later date. This can be beneficial for companies who want to keep more cash on hand in the short term.

Learn more about the recent dividend rates here.

Is Being in Arrears Always a Bad Thing?

While being in arrears can sometimes be seen as a negative financial situation, it is not always the case. In some cases, it may even be beneficial for both parties involved.

For example, if a company is struggling with cash flow and cannot afford to pay their vendors or contractors upfront, paying in arrears can allow them to still receive goods or services without immediate payment.

Additionally, for investors, receiving dividends in arrears can result in a larger lump sum payment at a later date rather than smaller, more frequent payments.


In summary, arrears refer to delayed payments made after goods or services have been provided. Companies may choose this method of payment for various reasons, such as cash flow management and incentivizing performance. There are two types of arrears - recurring and non-recurring, with examples such as rent payments and subscription fees. While there are advantages to using arrears, there can also be disadvantages for both the payer and recipient. Arrears can also be seen in dividend payments, where companies may choose to pay them at a later date instead of immediately. Ultimately, being in arrears is not always a negative situation and can have benefits for both parties involved. So, it is important for companies to carefully consider their payment methods and communicate clearly with their vendors or contractors to ensure a smooth and mutually beneficial relationship.

Dave Jangid | Debitam By Dave Jangid |
Note: Please note that the content of the above blog and the aforementioned information are solely for the purpose of awareness and are informative in nature. The content is designed with intent to ease the understanding while preserving the essence and importance of the compliance rules and shall not be considered as an ultimate replication of the rules. Debitam does not own any responsibility whatsoever for any unpleasant event that may arise due to the misinterpretation of a specific part or whole of the information.

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