Accounting Unplugged


Accounting System Structure – Financial Statement Ratios

For a quick overview of the Accounting System Structure including the Chart of Accounts, Journals and Ledgers please see my New Post (#16).

For More on How to Make use of Financial Statements and Financial Ratios, please see New Post # 17

Financial Statements – Trial Balance

<< General Ledger – Accounting Periods >>Financials – Income Statement

I decided to skip ahead a little and introduce the financial statements.  We’ve covered the basics well enough to make sense of them so for now, let’s stick to the subject of the Payoff and go back to cover the details of subledgers and month ends in future posts.

The General Ledger takes the information from transactions and summarizes it by Account and by Accounting Period.  The four basic Financial Statements present General Ledger (GL) Accounts and their balances for specific date ranges, usually accounting periods. The four basic financial statements are:

In this Post, I’ll introduce the most basic and simple of the statements -The Trial Balance. The Trial Balance is a listing of all General Ledger (GL) Accounts and their balances at any given time in order of GL Account Number.

The Trial Balance is different from the other Financial Statements because it is the only one that lists all Accounts, the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet split the Accounts and the Cash Flow Statement uses the same Accounts as the Balance Sheet.

The Standard Trial Balance is straight forward and doesn’t require any further explanation. It is a quick report that can be printed or viewed to check the balance of specific accounts and to make sure that the books are in balance – that debits = credits.

The Comparison Trial Balance is also straight forward and provides the same information as the standard version but it gives balances both by account and by accounting period. Time analysis is essential in managing and securing resources because it can quickly pinpoint changes that indicate errors or fraud as well as the unexpected changes that might require adjustments to cash planning and/or operations.

We have already seen both versions of the Trial Balance and I’ll reprint them here for review.

Standard Trial Balance as seen in Post #4 (with Account Numbers that were added in Post #5)

Account Description Debits Credits
1000 Checking Account $44,350
1200 Accounts Receivable $0
1500 Office Equipment $1,300
1520 Office Furniture $1,650
2000 Accounts Payable $1,700
4000 Sales $50,000
7000 Rent $3,000
7020 Office Supplies $150
7040 Subscriptions $300
7060 Utilities $125
7100 Fuel $275
7200 Repairs and Maintenance $500
7300 Credit Card Interest and Fees $50
Totals $51,700 $51,700

This is the Comparison Trial Balance Report from post # 7

Account Description Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total
1000 Checking $0 $0 $0 -$3,000 $0 $0 $0 $-3,000
….. ……….
7000 Rent $0 $0 $0 $3,000 $0 $0 $0 $3,000
Totals $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0

**This example starts with June because of space limitations here.

Next Up: Financial Statements – Income Statement

<< General Ledger – Accounting Periods

**disclaimer: All information posted on this blog is from my own experience and training. The guidelines I present are general and in my experience, standard practice. I do not write with authority from any Accounting Standards Boards.

General Ledger Analysis – Accounting Periods

<< Chart of Accounts – Accounting Types >>Financial Statements – Trial Balance

This is where the Double Entry System starts to Pay Off.  The addition of the time element introduced in this post completes the basics of how to organize and operate this system.  From this point forward, you will start to experience nothing but increasing rates of return on your investment of time in learning it.  The next few posts will introduce Financial Statements and how to put them to work for you and will complete the circle for the basics.

The General Ledger is more than just another important element in the Accounting System, it is where the goods are.  The General Ledger is the combination of the Chart of Accounts, Financial Transactions, Account Balances and Accounting Periods.  In practice, once the Chart of Accounts has been established, the term “Chart of Accounts” is considered more in terms of a report than as an object.  From this point forward, Accounts from the Chart of Accounts will be called General Ledger Accounts.

The General Ledger adds the essential organizational element of Time (Accounting Periods) to the Accounting System, so in addition to the original three organizational methods of the Chart of Accounts, the General Ledger is organized in four ways.

  • 1. Accounting Type
  • 2. Order of Liquidity
  • 3. Account Number
  • 4. Accounting Periods

Accounting Periods are generally date/time intervals of Months, Quarters and Years.  The term Accounting Period can mean any of those in different situations.  For purposes of this discussion, Accounting Periods will refer to Months within a given year.

If the General Ledger is going to organize around accounting periods, then we need to add dates to the data we gather with transactions.  There can be a variety of dates that are relevant to a transaction, the transaction date, the invoice date, the due date, the expiration date etc. but for purposes of this post, the date we’ll focus on is the transaction date.

The transaction grid introduced in the previous posts needs to be expanded to 5 columns to accommodate the new data requirements of date and account number.

Transaction Date Account Description Debit Credit
9/01/08 7000 Rent $3,000
1000 Checking Account $3,000

The Transaction Date is only required to be entered on the first line of a transaction (in a manual ledger) because it is assumed to be (and must be) the same for each entry in a transaction.  In addition to the requirement that total Debits = total Credits for each Transaction, Total Debits must also equal Total Credits for each Accounting Period. This requirement fulfills the original intent of double entry, a balanced view of uses and sources of funds (debits = credits) by Transaction, by Accounting Period and by default, Overall.

Both entries in the transaction post to their Accounts in Accounting Period 9/08.

This is a Comparison Trial Balance Report from the General Ledger and this is where you can take a step back from the details of transactions and see the larger picture.

Account Description Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total
1000 Checking $0 $0 $0 -$3,000 $0 $0 $0 $-3,000
….. ……….
7000 Rent $0 $0 $0 $3,000 $0 $0 $0 $3,000
Totals $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0

**This example starts with June because of space limitations here.

The only accounts listed are the two from the transaction example but they demonstrate the ability to compare accounts against themselves and against other accounts from period to period.  Notice that the totals on the bottom line are all zeros, this shows that the books are in balance because total debits (positive amounts on this report) combined with total credits (negative amounts on this report) = Zero.

When reports do not have two columns to display amounts, the credits will be displayed as negatives.  In reports like this, *Debit Accounts should have positive balances and Credit Accounts should have negative balances.  There is only cause for concern if the +/- of the amount does not match its accounting type.  In this case, the Checking Account is a Debit Account so that is an indication of trouble. (*See 6. Chart of Accounts – Transaction Types)

Accounting Periods are an essential analysis tool in accounting.  They provide the opportunity to compare account balances not just one account against another but also against itself over time.  Time analysis provides the data to detect unusual changes in account balances from period to period that may indicate errors or unintentional over or under payments of critical obligations such as taxes, rents, utilities, insurance etc.  Time analysis is also essential to management and owners for cash planning, establishing correlations between expenses and revenues to help make operational adjustments, and detecting changes that may indicate theft or fraud.

Next Up: >>Financial Statements – Trial Balance

<< Chart of Accounts – Accounting Types

**disclaimer: All information posted on this blog is from my own experience and training. The guidelines I present are general and in my experience, standard practice. I do not write with authority from any Accounting Standards Boards.

Chart of Accounts – The Basics

<< Double Entry Accounting – Practice >> Chart of Accounts – Organization

This post begins the explanation of the Chart of Accounts.  The Chart of Accounts performs the second basic function of the Double Entry Accounting System – to organize financial transaction data. The Chart of Accounts provides the organizational structure for another element, the General Ledger which summarizes the Financial Data and produces Financial Reports.

The purpose of this and the next two posts (4-6) is to introduce the organizational structure of the system and for that reason, I do not make a distinction between the Chart of Accounts and the General Ledger until Post # 7.

Review of the Double Entry Accounting Transaction Questions:

  1. 1.  How much money changed hands?
  2. 2.  Where did the money go?  What was either gained or paid for by this exchange?
  3. 3.  Where did the money come from?  What is the source of the value in this exchange?

The Chart of Accounts is basically a list of the descriptions used to answer Transaction Questions 2 and 3.   Each unique description is called an account.  One of the best features of the Chart of Accounts is that when you have a new type of transaction you can just add a new description (account).

From the transactions in the previous posts, we have started a Chart of Accounts

  • Rent
  • Checking Account
  • Office Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Repairs & Maintenance
  • Subscriptions
  • Accounts Payable (Credit Card)
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Sales

Let’s review the previous entries and create some additional entries to our transaction example and see how our Chart of Accounts starts to fill out.

The entries below the *******’s are new in this post and record:

  • the receipt of payment for the existing Accounts Receivable Invoice
  • the payment of the existing credit card balance
  • a utilities expense and payment
  • new credit card charges

Description Debit Credit
Rent $3,000
Checking Account $3,000
Office Supplies $300
Fuel $275
Repairs and Maintenance $500
Subscriptions $125
Printer $1,300
Accounts Payable (Credit Card) $2,500
Accounts Receivable $50,000
Sales $50,000
************************** ********* *********
Checking Account $50,000
Accounts Receivable $50,000
Accounts Payable (Credit Card) $2,500
Checking Account $2,500
Utilities $150
Checking Account $150
Chair $750
Desk $900
Credit Card Interest and Fees $50
Accounts Payable (Credit Card) $1,700
Totals: $109,850 $109,850

Current Chart of Accounts:

  • Rent
  • Checking Account
  • Office Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Repairs & Maintenance
  • Subscriptions
  • Printer
  • Accounts Payable (Credit Card)
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Sales
  • Utilities
  • Chair
  • Desk
  • Credit Card Interest and Fees

To keep the Chart of Accounts manageable and meaningful, it is important to strike a balance between having a long specific list and a short general list.  To accomplish this objective, the Chart of Accounts should have descriptions for types of things, and not for specific things.  You want the Accounts to be specific enough to be useful but not too specific because the fewer accounts you have the better overall picture you can have.

You wouldn’t add a new account for paper, pens and staples, you would just use one account called office supplies.  So, it is important to reuse accounts when possible, and to simplify entries into more general descriptions like “office furniture” instead of separating the chair and desk purchases.

So, now let’s look at the Chart of Accounts and its Account Balances.

Account Balances
Debit Credit
Checking Account $44,350
Accounts Receivable $0
Office Equipment (Printer) $1,300
Office Furniture $1,650
Accounts Payable $1,700
Sales $50,000
Rent $3,000
Utilities $150
Office Supplies $300
Subscriptions $125
Fuel $275
Repairs and Maintenance $500
Credit Card Interest and Fees $50
Totals $51,700 $51,700

You can see that for even the small number of transactions in this example, The Chart of Accounts is essential in understanding their financial impact.

Notice that the account balances are also separated into the debit/credit columns.  The amounts listed here are the difference between the total debit entries and the total credit entries for each account.  If the amount was higher on the credit side, then the balance is listed in the credit column.  It is also important to note that our Chart of Account balances meet the requirement that total debits equal total credits.

The Chart of Accounts is really comprised of three things for each Account – an Account Number, a Description and an Accounting Type.  The transactions and account balances are part of a ledger called the General Ledger.   The table above is more accurately described as the General Ledger.

** Important Note: Post #6 discusses debit and credit balances in accounts.  In this case, none of the balances in our accounts is cause for concern because their totals are in the correct column for their type.  Accounting Types are explained in more detail in Posts #5 and #6.  Post #7 begins the discussion of the General Ledger and its Balances and Reports.

Next Up: >>5. Chart of Accounts – Organization

<< 3. Double Entry Accounting – Practice

**disclaimer:  All information posted on this blog is from my own experience and training.  The guidelines I present are general and in my experience, standard practice.  I do not write with authority from any Accounting Standards Boards.