Define: Window Dressing

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Window Dressing

Quick Summary of Window Dressing

Window dressing refers to any practice that attempts to make a situation look better than it actually is.

What is the dictionary definition of Window Dressing?

Dictionary Definition

An adroit but superficial or misleading presentation of something, designed to create a favourable impression.

Window dressing refers to any practice that attempts to make a situation look better than it actually is.

Window dressing has often been used extensively by accountants to improve the appearance of balance sheets.

In the past, banks used to call in their short-term loans and postpone making payments at the end of their financial years, in order to display spuriously high cash balances.

Another more nefarious example is when a company borrows cash from an associate in order to disguise a short-term liquidity/cash flow problem.

These practices fall under the remit of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).


Full Definition of Window Dressing

Window dressing can have at least two meanings. In accounting terms, window dressing refers to an assortment of alterations a bookkeeper might make to a financial statement, whether legal or illegal so that the statement appears stronger than it is. Omitting expenses, recording sales before they occur, or delaying write-offs are possible window dressing activities in this context. A firm might engage in the accounting version of window dressing to meet liquidity requirements on financial disclosure forms. In investing, window dressing refers to the churning of a portfolio by an investment fund manager out of stocks or securities that have performed poorly and into stocks that have performed well. Window dressing in this instance typically occurs near the end of a quarter and is aimed at making portfolios appear more profitable and fund managers more astute than they were. Alternatively, investment window dressing might also entail fund purchasing security in a popular, expanding sector that has nothing to do with the orientation of the fund. For instance, a utilities fund purchasing technology stocks during the late 1990s tech boom would have been engaging in window dressing.



Synonyms For Window Dressing

smoke and mirrors, facade, front, frontage, face

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Window Dressing. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. March 30, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Window Dressing. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: March 30, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Window Dressing. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Window Dressing are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 29th January 2019.