difference between reserve and provisions

The Difference Between Reserve and Provisions in Accounting

When it comes to accounting, there are various terms and concepts that can easily confuse individuals who are not familiar with the field. Two common terminologies are reserve and provisions. While both functions as a form of allocation of funds for future use, they have distinct differences in their application. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between reserve and provisions in accounting.


A reserve in accounting refers to the allocation of profit or loss for future use by a company. It is an appropriation of funds retained by the business to protect against future risks or unforeseen circumstances. Reserves are either created voluntarily or mandatorily by an entity as governed by its charter or the laws of a country. They are typically categorized into various types, such as general reserves, specific reserves, and capital reserves, among others.

General reserves are usually set aside to cushion against future risks and uncertainties that a business is likely to face. These reserves can be used to cover any unidentified or unknown liabilities that might arise in the future, like future or potential lawsuits.

Specific reserves, on the other hand, are created for a specific purpose or event. For example, a company may create a specific reserve for replacement of machinery that will be due for renewal in the coming years. The funds allocated in such a case will not be used for any other purpose except the intended one.

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Capital reserves are created by a company from the profits generated from sale of assets. The reserve amounts may be retained for future growth and expansion of the firm, or for settling debts or taxes.


Provisions in accounting are created to secure and protect against current or anticipated future liabilities. It involves the use of funds set aside to cater to potential losses that might be incurred by a business in the future. Provisions typically represent an expense that a company must incur at some point in the future, such as repairs, reimbursements, or write-offs, but the exact timing and amount of the expense is uncertain.

Provisions are typically recorded as liabilities on the balance sheet of a company until the condition or obligation for its release is met. For example, a company may create a provision for product warranty claims. The amount of the provision is typically an estimate of the potential liability arising from such claims, and it will only be released from being recorded as a liability upon actual settlement of liability.

The Differences Between the Two

While both terms involve the allocation of funds for future use, the primary difference between reserve and provisions is that the latter is an exit cost, while the former is an appropriation of profit or loss. While reserves are usually created for future contingencies and potential liabilities, provisions are created to cater for current and future expenses that a business is likely to incur.

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In summary, reserves and provisions are essential components of accounting practices. Understanding the difference between the two is critical to ensure proper financial management and planning for your business. By allocating funds correctly, businesses can increase their financial stability, reduce risk, and meet their financial obligations.

Table difference between reserve and provisions

Here’s an example HTML table illustrating the difference between reserves and provisions:


Category Definition Purpose
Reserves Funds set aside by a company to address potential future losses or expenses. To ensure that a company has sufficient financial resources to deal with unexpected events or liabilities, and to build confidence among investors and creditors.
Provisions Amounts set aside by a company to cover specific future expenses or losses that are likely to occur. To account for known or likely future obligations or expenses, and to ensure that a company accurately reflects its financial position and performance.


In the table, the “Category” column indicates whether the row refers to reserves or provisions. The “Definition” column provides a brief description of each term. The “Purpose” column explains why companies create reserves and provisions, and what benefits or goals these concepts enable.