What is a Transaction Exchange Gain or Loss?

Transaction Exchange Gain or Loss

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Transaction Exchange Gain or Loss

A transaction exchange gain or loss arises when a company conducts business in foreign currencies. Given that exchange rates between currencies can fluctuate over time, the value of a company’s foreign currency-denominated transactions may change from the time a transaction is recorded to the time it’s settled. The difference resulting from these fluctuations in exchange rates is referred to as a transaction exchange gain or loss.

There are two primary situations where these gains or losses might be realized:

  • Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable: When a company sells goods or services to a foreign customer and offers credit terms, the sale is recorded in the company’s books using the exchange rate at the time of the sale. By the time the customer pays, the exchange rate may have changed, resulting in a different amount being recorded in the home currency than originally expected. The difference is the transaction exchange gain or loss.
  • Foreign Currency Loans or Borrowings: When a company borrows or lends money in a foreign currency, any changes in exchange rates between the time of borrowing/lending and the time of repayment can lead to transaction exchange gains or losses.

Example of a Transaction Exchange Gain or Loss

Let’s use a practical example involving a U.S. company that purchases goods from a supplier in Japan.

Scenario: BellaTech’s Japanese Purchase

BellaTech, a U.S.-based electronics company, places an order for specialized components from a supplier in Japan on March 1. The agreed price is ¥10,000,000. On that day, the exchange rate is ¥100 = $1, which means BellaTech expects to pay $100,000 for the components (¥10,000,000 / 100).

However, BellaTech will only make the payment when the components are delivered 30 days later. By March 31, the exchange rate has shifted to ¥95 = $1.

Calculating the Exchange Gain or Loss

  • March 1 Calculation: At the time of purchase, BellaTech records an accounts payable of $100,000 in its books.
  • March 31 Calculation: When it’s time to pay on March 31, the $100,000 is equal to ¥9,500,000 at the current exchange rate (¥95 = $1). But BellaTech owes the Japanese supplier ¥10,000,000. To settle this, they’d have to pay $105,263.16 (¥10,000,000 / 95).


  • Amount initially recorded as payable: $100,000
  • Actual amount paid on March 31: $105,263.16
  • Exchange Loss: $5,263.16

BellaTech would have to record an exchange loss of $5,263.16 due to the unfavorable movement in the exchange rate from the time the transaction was recorded to the time of payment.

This loss would typically be recorded in the income statement and would impact the company’s net income for the period. If the currency had moved in the opposite direction (strengthening of the USD against the yen), BellaTech would have recorded an exchange gain.

This example underscores why many companies that deal with international suppliers or customers often hedge their foreign currency exposure to minimize the potential impact of currency fluctuations on their financials.

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