How To Develop A Chart Of Accounts For Your Small Business

chart of accounts

In this ultimate guide, not only do we explore examples of a common chart of accounts but also we discuss best practices on how to properly set up your chart of accounts. This is a graphical representation of a standard sample of chart of accounts.

Stakeholders can refer to the COA and balance sheet, and income statement to find the source of expense and earnings. The chart of accounts shows you the title, account type, and the financial statement of each account recorded in the chart. This information is beneficial for businesses as it provides a snapshot of all the general ledger accounts in a company and their respective financial statements. The chart of accounts you create for your business will act as the foundation for all your financial recordkeeping, so it’s a crucial document for your business. Because the chart of accounts organizes all the data related to your business’s finances, it’s a useful tool for quickly and easily creating financial statements. Each of the accounts in the chart of accounts corresponds to the two main financial statements, i.e., the balance sheet and income statement.

chart of accounts

Owner’s equity measures how valuable the company is to the shareholders of the company. Groups of numbers are assigned to each of the five main categories, while blank numbers are left at the end to allow for additional accounts to be added in the future. Also, the numbering should be consistent to make it easier for management to roll up information of the company from one period to the next. For ease of use, a COA contains the list of accounts’ names, brief descriptions, account type, account balance and account codes for each sub-account. The chart of accounts is designed to be a map of your business and its various financial parts. Companies in different lines of business will have different looking charts of accounts. The chart of accounts for a major airline will have a lot more references to “aircraft parts” than your local cat cafe.

This refers to the specific accounts to be used in making journal entries such as cash, accounts receivable, accounts payable, retained earnings, utilities expense, and revenue. Each account on the chart of accounts contains an identification code, description, and name. This makes it easier to locate specific accounts, as a chart of accounts can get complex, especially for very large companies. For an international corporation with multiple divisions, the chart of accounts may even include thousands of individual financial accounts. As time goes by, you may find yourself wanting to create a new line item for each transaction. However, doing so could litter your company’s chart and make it confusing to navigate.


Say you want to determine your asset coverage ratio before acquiring a long term loan for your business. A quick glance at an accurate can tell you if you can pay off your debts with your current assets or if you need to hold off on taking on more financial risk. The chart of accounts is best for businesses that need simple and easier ways to manage documents. However, there are many benefits of using the chart of accounts, there are also a few problems with this chart. Firstly, it is expensive as it requires specialized employees to record financial transactions daily.

Accounts should support management decisions during the current accounting period. Larger companies with several divisions or locations need more complex charts of accounts than smaller ones. If you have employees, you need accounts for wages, contributions to retirement funds, etc. Your chart of accounts is an index, but it’s also meant to be a quick lookup table. You don’t need to create separate accounts for every single transaction, utility, or sale. This is all the non-debt money that you need to spend in order to keep your business running. Revenue is the money your business brings in through sales or investments.


Regardless of the sub-accounts you use, a COA can help you stay organized, keeping your accounting books clear and understandable. That way, you aren’t listing every transaction under one of the five main accounts. Loans and accounts payable are examples of liabilities you might incur. Your assets are the tangible and intangible things you own that add value to your business. A business bank account (e.g., checking) is an example of an asset. Your COA breaks down your business’s transactions into five main accounts and as many sub-accounts as you need for budgeting and tax purposes. You’ll want to keep your chart of accounts as straightforward and organized as possible.

Revenue earned by a business adds to Assets, possibly by increasing a bank account. Or it might take the form of a receivable, that is, an amount earned and invoiced to a customer but for which money has not yet been received from the customer. A receivable is still an asset, because it has value to your business. Although the effort of building a good chart of accounts produces no direct revenue, it costs little or nothing, but will improve operations far into the future. A well-designed chart of accounts ultimately makes your business easier to manage and can save time and money. The chart of accounts is like the framework of shelves and storage bins in a warehouse.

An asset would have the prefix of 1 and an expense would have a prefix of 5. This structure can avoid confusion in the bookkeeper process and ensure the proper account is selected when recording transactions. You can think of this like a rolodex of accounts that the bookkeeper and the accounting software can use to record transactions, make reports, and prepare financial statements throughout the year. Small businesses need a chart of accounts to organize their accounting for more simple and accurate financial reporting.

If you acquire another company, a key task is shifting the acquiree’s chart of accounts into the parent company’s chart of accounts, so that you can present consolidated financial results. This process is known as mappingthe acquiree’s information into the parent’s chart of accounts. It is of some importance to initially create a chart of accounts that is unlikely to change for several years, so that you can compare the results in the same account over a multi-year period. It should let you make better decisions, give you an accurate snapshot of your company’s financial health, and make it easier to follow financial reporting standards. Below, we’ll go over what the accounting chart of accounts is, what it looks like, and why it’s so important for your business. In France Liabilities and Equity are seen as negative Assets and not account types of themselves, just balance accounts.

Assign Account Numbers To Business Accounts

To fix that, they automate the setup part and build a pre-fabricated chart of accounts into the software. “I don’t think I’ve ever looked at that,” he told me as we looked over his accounts.

  • Revenue earned by a business adds to Assets, possibly by increasing a bank account.
  • Accounts determining performance are called profit and loss or income statement accounts, because they appear on reports of the same name.
  • Some accountants recommend sticking with a GAAP-oriented chart of accounts and generating management-oriented financials through custom reports.
  • Assets, liabilities and equity are related to the balance sheet.
  • Your chart of accounts allows you to get an overview of all the money your business owes.

It replaces the filing cabinets of yore where back offices had intricate paper indexing systems for their transactions. The leading digit on each account indicates what type of account it belongs to. For example, Meals Expense might be a standalone account or it might be spread across the categories the meals relate to, such as Marketing, Conferences, or Travel.

Examples include factory supervisor wages, incidental supplies (e.g., tape, glue, screws), machinery repairs, shop building insurance, etc. Expenses such as tax preparation fees, marketing, and legal expenses would not be considered indirect costs, but rather operating or general/admin expenses. In certain industries such as advertising, farming, or consulting, most of the costs run together under the broad category of operating expenses.

How To Develop A Chart Of Accounts For Your Small Business

Current liabilities are generally those obligations that need to be paid within the current operating cycle. They include things such as demand notes, accounts payable, employee benefits, sales tax, payable interest and estimated tax payments. Items that cannot be converted quickly into cash but where their cost provides future benefits.

If no-one can understand the financial reports, then they are not useful. By building trees, the system has a single place to look for summarization rules. This centralization enables rules to be defined once and then used throughout the system. For example, different reports, ledgers, and security profiles might all refer to parts of the University’s organizational chart.

Some companies, especially larger businesses, may require that each department put together its own chart of accounts, using the same types of sections. For example, if the software does not allow you to rearrange the order of the accounts on the financial statements, it becomes very critical how your order your chart of accounts. While it sounds great in theory, in practice financial statements are what get faithfully generated and reviewed by management each month.

What Is A Chart Of Accounts & Is It Important?

Sports Supply is a company that sells sporting equipment, e.g. soccer balls. It is quite difficult to explain what a chart of accounts is, and what the effect is if it is not correctly set up. The number of accounts in the chart of accounts needs to be kept under control otherwise the process of simplification of information will not work. Segment labels identify certain segments in your chart of accounts and assign special functionality to those segments. Segment labels were referred to as flexfield qualifiers in Oracle E-Business Suite. Here are the segment labels that are available to use with the chart of accounts.

  • For organizational elegance, keep numbers and descriptions consistent.
  • It is based on the accounting equation that states that the sum of the total liabilities and the owner’s capital equals the total assets of the company.
  • Investigate whether available reports will provide information you want.
  • Contra accounts are also often referred to as adjustments or adjusting accounts.
  • Each account in the chart of accounts is typically assigned a name.
  • If their warehouse is well-organized, an arriving shipment of Dell laptops will be routed to a specific bin in the Dell section of the laptop area of the warehouse.

Individuals who provide leadership for a research grant and/or subunit within a department by managing, problem solving, ensuring compliance with policies, and monitoring budgets. There are eleven ChartFields in the financial management system . Each piece of information captured by a ChartField fulfills a need. That information may be required for regulatory reporting, for tracking expenditures against budgets, for managerial decision making, or other reasons. NetSuite also integrates with Cube, so you can keep your accounting and FP&A separate. Like Quickbooks, Sage Intacct is an ERP trusted by all kinds of businesses.

File Your Tax Returns

You can add an account to your charts of accounts at any time of the year without it negatively affecting the accuracy of your records. But it is best to hold off on deleting accounts till the end of the year to avoid skewing your figures. Expenses are the costs incurred by a business in the process of generating revenue. An asset is a probable future economic benefit owned or controlled by a particular entity as a result of past transactions or events.

chart of accounts

Organized record keeping system you risk having missing records and inaccurate figures, filing taxes wrongly and losing money to unpaid invoices. RevenuesRevenue is the amount of money that a business can earn in its normal course of business by selling its goods and services. In the case of the federal government, it refers to the total amount of income generated from taxes, which remains unfiltered from any deductions. Advisory services provided by Carbon Collective Investment LLC (“Carbon Collective”), an SEC-registered investment adviser. Secondly, it is essential to carry out the numbering, as it can help us pick any account based on its number.

As you can see in this example, all accounts are listed according to their numbers. Also, the chart of accounts shows the title, account type and the financial statements of each account recorded in the chart. Firstly, identify the structure of your business, whether it is a sole trading business, partnership, or corporation. After going through the structure, set up your chart in a way where you have enough records, to document financial transactions. Also, ensure that you don’t have extra accounts, as this will cost a lot of time when preparing financial statements and can also reduce the accuracy of the accounts. Each line on a typical chart of accounts will include an account number, title, description and balance.

In that case, you’d credit the cash asset account, since cash is leaving your business, and debit your expense account for rent. Alternatively, if you’re using accounting software, it’ll know which accounts to credit and debit. The main components of the income statement accounts include the revenue accounts and expense accounts. Liability accounts also follow the traditional balance sheet format by starting with the current liabilities, followed by long-term liabilities. The number system for each liability account can start from 2000 and use a sequence that is easy to follow and compare in different accounting periods. Companies often use the chart of accounts to organize their records by providing a complete list of all the accounts in the general ledger of the business. The chart makes it easy to prepare information for evaluating the financial performance of the company at any given time.

The main account types include Revenue, Expenses, Assets, Liabilities, and Equity. Remember that once an account has been used, Manager will not let you delete it. So good practice includes accounts useful over the long term. Creating accounts for one-time events is usually poor practice.

Every time you record a business transaction—a new bank loan, an invoice from one of your clients, a laptop for the office—you have to record it in the right account. A gap between account numbers allows for adding accounts in the future. The following is a partial listing of a sample chart of accounts. XBRL eXtensible Business Reporting Language, and the related, required encoding (or “tagging”) of public company financial statement data in the U.S. by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Asset Accounts

Initially keeping the number of accounts to a minimum has the advantage of making the accounting system simple. Starting with a small number of accounts, as certain accounts acquired significant balances they would be split into smaller, more specific accounts. However, following this strategy makes it more difficult to generate consistent historical comparisons. In this respect, there is an advantage in organizing the chart of accounts with a higher initial level of detail. The chart of accounts lists accounts for the balance sheet and the income statement.